Bank of London and South America 
Calle Reconquista 101 
Buenos Aires 1003 
Argentina

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.

 

 

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