on February 2, 2009
Puente de la MujerThe first time I saw the bridge, I was unprepared for the sight. Enjoying it, I recognized Santiago Calatrava work without being told so; nobody else would have created a bridge with such a look. Later I found it was his first work in South America.Calatrava is one of the most world wide renowned architects, with works that can be immediately recognized by their aesthetics and dynamic look; often they are dynamic. Seeing one of his works in real life is with no doubt one of the trip high points.The "Bridge of the Woman" is located in "Dique 3" ("Dock 3") of Puerto Madero in Buenos Aires. Despite being near the port, this area has become one of the most exclusive areas of the city. The walking bridge was inaugurated in 2001 and was designed to connect Puerto Madero with downtown Buenos Aires. It can be easily reached by foot from the southern parts of the city or with a short taxi ride; many buses reach the area as well.It has a length of 160 meters and a width of six and is one of the kinetic works of Calatrava, since it rotates by ninety degrees every time a ship needs to pass through the water canal it spans; its rotating mechanism around the central column is one of the largest in the world and completes its operation in less than two minutes. The slanted central column is the base for the cables holding the bridge. In design, it is similar to his Puente del Alamillo and Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay, but with a forward angled cantilever instead of a reverse one. Expectedly, it wasn’t constructed in Argentina, but in Spain. Its shape interpretation needs a bit of imagination. The slanted mast represents a standing man holding a woman – the bridge – who is lying backwards in his arms in a typical tango dancing posture. Its design had received an international price in Amsterdam, 2008. This is definitely one of the most attractive spots in modern Buenos Aires.Puerto MaderoThis neighborhood is next to downtown Buenos Aires, the port and the river, facts that have transformed it into one of the most exclusive areas of the city.Since the original port of Buenos Aires was too shallow for big ships, in 1882 the government selected Eduardo Madero’s project to build a new port. His project won the bid mainly due to its perceived modernity, because it featured an extravagant number of docks, dams and rotating bridges. It was built between 1882 and 1887. As often happens with extravaganzas, ten years later it became obsolete due to the larger size of the ships used by then. The "Puerto Nuevo" ("New Port") was then constructed and is active until now.Following that event, the area became a huge landfill. Between 1925 and 1985, seven plans were proposed regarding its transformation, but all of them failed. In 1989 it was decided to transform it into an urban area and this time the initiative led to the creation of an exclusive residential area, which included extensive parks, many works of art and became a recognition area for women. Most of its streets and avenues bear names of prominent women and its main pedestrian connection with downtown is through the "Bridge of the Woman." Other prominent structures are the Universidad Católica Argentina and the Universidad Austral universities, several residential towers and – as of early 2009 – three five stars hotels: Hilton, Faena and Sofitel. In an adjacent area, which was recovered from the river, is the Reserva Ecológica, a reserve of the original riverside wildlife.Dancing in the FrigateNext to the "Bridge of the Woman" is another main attraction of the neighborhood. As the former it is of kinetic nature. A British built frigate named "Fragata Presidente Sarmiento" has been turned into a museum and can be visited during the day. The frigate entered the service of the Argentinean navy in 1897 and served international trips until 1939; in 1961 it was finally retired of service. Its length is of slightly more than 85m, the width just over 13m and its weight 2733 metric tones. It had two steam engines and a total of 33 sails between regular and supplementary ones. In its final role it was a school boat of the Argentinean navy; in 1962 it was declared a National Historic Monument. Visiting it is an interesting complement to the Puerto Maderos tour, adding a dynamic touch to the port area. Not all of its interior can be visited, but the upper deck is completely open with many of the ship former weapons in display there. At the time of my visit I witnessed a dance class taking part on the main deck covered area; I couldn’t ask what was going on, but they may have been practicing for some time of television advertisement.
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