Plan for Buenos Aires: Buenos Aires, the city that was the dream and torment of Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier, in an undated image.
Le Corbusier, in an undated image.Plan for Buenos Aires

Seen from the ship, Buenos Aires was a line caught between the infinity of its coast and the Pampean plain. That nostalgic view, for Le Corbusier, was a rebirth. The father of modern architecture arrived in the Argentine capital in 1929 looking for a new opportunity. Branded bourgeois by the Soviet Union and by the Germany that was about to embrace Adolf Hitler, ignored in Paris in his eagerness to tear down and rebuild the city, and with less and less influence among the architects he had given birth to, the city trapped between two infinities became his obsession. Over the next 20 years, Le Corbusier would come up with a plan to reform it and it would come up against one of the most turbulent periods in its history: the Great Depression, the first coup in the country and the rise of General Juan Domingo Perón.

“All the cities of the world are sick. And Buenos Aires, like all of them, today suffers the consequences of 100 years of urban planning errors, ”wrote the architect upon his arrival in the Argentine capital. He had been invited by the Friends of Art Association and by the writer Victoria Ocampo, a light of the bourgeoisie and culture of the time, who had promised him a pedestal and a fertile ground for his work. But the architect puzzled them. In the dozen lectures he gave in the city, Le Corbusier decreed that Buenos Aires was sick, “pushed by its very vitality towards paralysis and urban chaos.” With no intention of building housing for Argentina’s burgeoning upper class, he embarked on a mission no one had asked of him: a plan to reform the city.

“Le Corbusier anticipated the disaster. Ideas are always debatable, but he saw a problem in the way the city was inhabited and thought of a solution”, says film director Gerardo Panero (Chivilcoy, 1980) who, in his latest documentary, follows in the footsteps of the architect through city ​​that became his obsession. The documentary Plan for Buenos Aires It begins with the vision of a city built turning its back on its river and a Le Corbusier who, with a failed plan to rebuild Paris, sees in Buenos Aires the ideal ground to reformulate his ideas. Four years before arriving in Argentina, the architect had devised the Voisin Plan, with which he proposed demolishing a large part of Paris to erect huge buildings surrounded by green areas. With no place for his clean slate in Paris, he thought he had found it in the young Argentine capital.

One of Le Corbusier's drawings projecting the modernization of Buenos Aires, seen from the La Pata river.
One of Le Corbusier’s drawings projecting the modernization of Buenos Aires, seen from the La Pata river.
Plan for Buenos Aires

Le Corbusier did not need more than a couple of weeks in Buenos Aires to detect the problems that have amplified today: the city disregarding its coast, a saturated urban fabric growing out of control and an abandoned industrial south facing the development of the center and the North. Through interviews and the few sketches and freehand drawings that Le Corbusier left as a legacy of his plan, Panero unravels the three moments in which the architect collided with Argentine reality: Le Corbusier and his ephemeral romance with the elite of the 20s; Le Corbusier in search of the approval of the coup government of General José Félix Uriburu in 1930; and Le Corbusier snubbed by the Perón who reformed Buenos Aires with his five-year plans at the end of the 40s.

The failure of his only trip to Argentina had revenge eight years later. In Paris, two young Argentine architects, Jorge Ferrari Hardoy and Juan Kurchan, knocked on the door of his studio to ask him to be their interns. Le Corbusier put them to work on his plan for the city together with the Catalan Antonio Bonet who, with roots in Argentina, proposed to bring the ideas of European modernism back to Latin America.

Le Corbusier thought of Buenos Aires as a beacon city of America, along with New York.  Both are projected in this drawing that he made during his stay in the Argentine capital.
Le Corbusier thought of Buenos Aires as a beacon city of America, along with New York. Both are projected in this drawing that he made during his stay in the Argentine capital.Plan for Buenos Aires

The Austral Group, which was born out of those desires, was a union of architects, artists and industrialists who, through manifestos and with a fierce political position, wanted to reform the cities. One of the key voices in the documentary, the architect Jorge Francisco Liernur, who wrote the history of the group, recalls that this made Le Corbusier uncomfortable, who asked his disciples to calm down: “He tells them to stop their hands, not to wave” . The French architect wants governments to hire him, not bother them.

Ferrari Hardoy, Kurchan and Bonet published their own plan without the consent of Le Corbusier. The arrival of Perón to the Argentine Government ended up breaking the relationship between the teacher and his disciples: the general wanted an urban plan for Buenos Aires and the architects, summoned by his Secretary of Public Works, Guillermo Borda, rescued his plan without a place for teacher.

“Political bids and political reality have a lot to do with his distancing from the final project,” says Panero. “Whoever has power, I think, he ends up wanting to control absolutely everything. There is a crash there. The second is a reality that is outside of our time: communications were not the same and the passage of time is heavier. If decisions had to be made, they knew it would take three months to answer a letter… I think there was a lot of that that muddied the relationship”.

The original plan was buried, but the influence of Le Corbusier can still be found today in Buenos Aires: Puerto Madero and its skyscrapers represent the “City of Business” that the architect had thought of as an extension outside the city in the middle of the river. . The social housing of the first Peronism, like the extensions of the avenues and the highway network that came later, also refer to the original idea.

His big footprint in Argentina, however, has nothing to do with the city. In 1949, while his disciples redesigned the city together with Peronism, Le Corbusier completed his only commission in Latin America: the Curutchet house. The family home that the architect designed for the surgeon Pedro Curutchet was finished in 1953. Le Corbusier designed it from Paris and never went to see the finished work.

‘Plan for Buenos Aires’, in Madrid

After its premiere at the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival in 2022, the documentary will be screened on March 15 at the Casa de América in Madrid.

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Elton Gardner

Elton Gardner is a seasoned writer and editor for He is a graduate of a prestigious journalism school and has contributed to numerous newspapers and magazines. Elton is an expert in various fields, including sports, entertainment, and technology. He is widely respected for his insights and engaging writing style. As an editor, Elton oversees a team of writers and ensures the website stays current with the latest trends and breaking news. His writing is characterized by its depth, clarity, and accessibility. Elton's spare time is spent with his family, playing sports, reading, and traveling to explore new cultures. With his talent, experience, and dedication, Elton Gardner is a prominent figure in online media and will continue to make waves in the years to come.

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