Bank of London and South
America Calle Reconquista 101
Buenos Aires 1003
Clorindo Testa and the
architecture firm SEPRA 1959 to 1966
The Hipotecario Nacional Bank,
formerly the Bank of London and South America, is one of the most poignant
and recognized examples of Modern Argentine architecture.
Designed by Clorindo Testa and
the architecture firm SEPRA , this Brutalist masterpiece is sited at the
corner of two narrow streets surrounded by closely packed Neoclassical
bank buildings. Testa's bank follows the proportions and scale of these
nearby buildings, acknowledging that these façades are glimpsed in pieces
and never as a whole. The resulting design of Testa's bank is a box within
a box; the outer layer is of rough concrete, with television-like punch
holes hovering around an inner glass box. The concrete façade is
supported independently from the glazing on the exterior, creating a
curtain effect of layering. The concrete is absent at the building's
entrance; only glass and large overhanging concrete slabs mark the portal
to the interior.
The interior of the building
contains six levels of offices, two are anchored on pedestals and are free
standing, and the other four are suspended from the roof, appearing to
float in mid air. All of the details of the interior, light switches,
handrails, furniture and finishes were designed by the architects to mix
in perfect harmony with the mass of the rough-hewn concrete structure.
The building was included in the
exhibition 20th Century Architecture Exhibition, held at the Museum of
Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2000, as the century's most important
work of Latin American architecture.
Although the bank has changed
ownership many times over the last decades, little alteration had occurred
until 1998, when a renovation project was undertaken, in part by the
original architect, Clorindo Testa. Sadly, some aspects of the bank's
original layout as well as interior and exterior finishes and paint colors
were altered, but the building's impact remains as powerful as ever.
Serianne Worden 2004
How to visit
The bank is located in the
financial district of downtown Buenos Aires at the intersection of Calle
Reconquista and Bartolomé Mitre, one block northeast of Plaza de Mayo. The
plaza is accessible via numerous buses and by subway lines A, E and D.
The bank is open to the public
Monday through Friday from 10am to 3pm. For more information please call +
54 11 4347-5714. Photos of the interior are not permitted.