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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Friday, January 14, 2011

Buenos Aires, Palacio Barolo

Please click on any picture to see the larger version.
Travel Date May 2010.

One of the things I enjoy most when I arrive in a new city is to wander by foot, bus and rail looking at the architecture and style of the suburbs and the city. As an Australian one of the first things that struck me was the similarity in style to some of the inner suburbs and central city area of Melbourne. Buenos Aires is described in some of the guide books as the Paris of the South. It is easy to see why; the French style appears subtly in many of the inner-city Barrios. But it is more than that, with a strong Spanish accent and occasional Italian influences.

The Palacio Barolo is one of the more interesting buildings in the city. It was designed by an Italian architect, Mario Palanti, who was commissioned by Luis Barolo who was an Italian immigrant who had made his fortune in the textile industry in Argentina.

Barolo was also a major fan of the medieval Italian author Dante Alighieri, commonly known just as Dante and his greatest work "The Divine Comedy". The architect was instructed to design the building to relate in many different ways to Dante's work; some are obvious, but many are subtle.

The Dante influence is inextricably part of the building. The Divine Comedy has 22 stanzas; the building has 22 floors. The basement, entrance and ground floor represent hell, with a mosaic and medallions on the floor representing flames. There are also lamps in the mouths of grotesque dragons; male to the west and female to the east.

Floors 1 through 14 represent purgatory and 15 through 22 represent heaven, crowned by the lighthouse representing God and salvation.

There are 100 cantos represented by the height of 100 meters. I was told by the guide that there are many more subtle representations of Dante's work in the building but as I'm not a student of Dante I missed those. The foundations apparently represent a golden ratio.

On a patriotic note, Barolo had the building designed so that on July 9, Argentine Independence Day, at 7:45pm the Southern Cross directly lines up over the tower. Barolo wanted Dante's ashes interred in the building, but that never happened and a statue of Dante designed for that purpose disappeared in the turmoil at the end of the PerĂ³n era in 1955.

The building was completed in 1923 after four years construction. Barolo used three floors for himself and let the remainder. He had his own personal secret elevator to his apartments, those elevators have now been sealed.

It was the tallest building in all of South America until 1935 and its lighthouse had a practical use guiding vessels on the broad expanse of the River Plate, or Rio de la Plata. The views of BA from the upper floors and from the lighthouse are magnificent. Unfortunately the smog was a bit heavy on the day, but I hope these photos give an idea of the view.

Optics experts will notice that I turned the reflection from the lighthouse mirror upside-down to show the cameraman :)

I went on the official tour, run by the builder's grandson which finished in the original owner's office.

I recommend the tour as a fascinating and interesting way to spend a few hours to anyone visiting Buenos Aires.

Cheers, Alan


  1. That is a great review!! Thanks.
    Palacio Barolo

  2. A really fantastic description of the Palacio Barolo and your visit. A truly fascinating and beautiful building, unique to Buenos Aires. It appears in Vicky Baker's recent post for our blog, The Real Argentina, along with a number of other intriguing buildings and her list of the 5 quirkiest architectural finds: http://www.therealargentina.com/argentinian-wine-blog/the-best-of-buenos-aires-architecture-including-five-quirky-finds/