The former Central Post Office headquarters in Buenos Aires – a colossal Beaux Art building that heralded Argentina´s Belle Époque times – is one of the Argentine capital’s most beautiful landmarks, and now one of the most dynamic, too.
Local architects B4FS and Becker-Ferrari have been working tirelessly for the past six years to make it so. They beat off 39 other firms in an international contest for the project to transform it into Latin America’s biggest cultural centre, the controversially named Centro Cultural Kirchner, in honour of the former president who passed away five years ago.
Originally designed by French architect Norbert-Auguste Maillart, the building dates back to 1889 and sits comfortably downtown, a mere stone’s throw away from the iconic Plaza de Mayo and the Pink House. Although it is now open, it continues very much to be a work in progress. Finishing touches are due to be completed by September.
By any standard - local or international - this has been an ambitious undertaking. A historic building with nine floors and three sublevels, 100,000m of floor place, 44 exhibition halls, six multimedia auditoriums, 14 auditioning rooms, two public squares, three restaurants and endless office space, all of which needed restoring and reconfiguring.
‘We had to stick to a very demanding and restrictive program of use and conservation,’ explains architect Daniel Becker. ‘[But] we wanted people to move around freely, despite the intimidating size of the building,’ he told Wallpaper*. And so they have. All the interventions respect the neoclassical style; marrying audacious incorporations with meticulous restoration work instead.
The most significant addition, named The Blue Whale, is a symphony hall and will house the Argentine National Symphony Orchestra. The 1,750-seat hall itself is suspended within the old building, a wooden-panelled interior and a mobile stage stitching it all together.
Connecting the new interventions are common materials, paths that lead all the way to the terrace and the impressive dome high above. Here, French tiles have been replaced by glass-illuminated with LED lights. The terrace meanwhile, employs the cityscape as a backdrop, offering a stunning view of the river Plate and the neighbourhood of Puerto Madero.