One of the things that I most enjoyed in Buenos Aires was walking the streets observing the people and the buildings. I have some general interest in architecture so I was delighted to find that most areas of the city were a gold mine of discoveries. In Retiro, I recommend these buildings for your interest.
The Palacio San Martín (Arenales 761, Tel: 4819 8092) is a grand mansion just to the west of Plaza San Martín. Unfortunately I was unable to go inside but even from the street it is impressive. This was the home of the powerful Anchorenas family whose prestige dated to colonial times in Argentina. In 1936, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs took over the building. From the street, you'll be impressed by its enormous French gates, with their intricate grillwork. Inside you can see the large circular courtyard. The building is open periodically for free tours but not while I was in Buenos Aires.
The construction of the Church of Nuestra Senora del Socorro (Lady of Help) went through several stages before becoming what it is today. By the late seventeenth century this area was one of summer estates and modest homes of fishermen. In one of these houses was a small Christ statue, before whom the villagers gathered to thank and ask for favours. So many graces were received that it began to be called the Lord of Miracles. In 1803, the statue was transferred to a chapel built by fishermen on the site of the current church.
Later a church was built with one nave, thick walls and low ceiling. It opened in 1855, but in 1875 the vestry collapsed. Two additional naves were added as well as the transept and the dome. The towers were completed later and in 1896, the temple was dedicated. Today it remains a well used building and is the headquarters for a charitable trust.
The Palacio Retiro is perhaps the most beautiful of the Beaux Arts mansions in Buenos Aires. It looks plucked from the Loire Valley. It was the home of the Paz family and was started in 1902 and took almost 12 years to build. Unfortunately, the patriarch who commissioned it died without seeing it finished. The family owned the La Prensa newspaper. The Palacio Retiro is now home to the Círculo Militar, an elite organization for retired military officers that bought the building in 1938. The Museo de las Armas, (Av. Santa Fe 702 Tel: 4311 1071) which sheds some light on the Islas Malvinas/Falkland Islands conflict from an Argentine perspective, is also in the building.
One of Buenos Aires’ architectural icons is the stately Estrugamou Building at Esmeralda and Juncal. This classical French structure built in 1929 is very sought after by foreign investors. Architects Sauze and Huguier designed the building with four wings, each of which has one apartment per floor. The building faces three different streets and each side has a different facade. The Estrugamou offers top-rate architectural quality, constructed with materials brought over directly from France. I was told that the sale price, on average, starts at $3,000 US dollars per m2. Several apartments have recently sold for well over one million US dollars.