Victoria Ocampo House 
Rufino de Elizalde 2831 
Buenos Aires 1425 
Argentina

Alejandro Bustillo 1929

The earliest inklings of Modernism in Argentina coincided with an illustrious visit. In 1929, the Sociedad Amigos del Arte (Friends of the Arts Society) invited the famed Le Corbusier to Buenos Aires, to give nine lectures. In anticipation of Le Corbusier's arrival, writer and socialite Victoria Ocampo, founder of the cultural journal SUR, sought to commission the first house in Buenos Aires employing Modernism's aesthetics.

Eager to impress and become an arbiter of taste, Ocampo first asked Le Corbusier to present a preliminary design for a house in the affluent Palermo Chico neighborhood, requesting the same for a nearby plot from local academic architect Alejandro Bustillo. Corbusier quickly made adaptations of his recent and unrealized project for the Villa Meyer and sent it to Madame Ocampo for approval, but it was the Argentine architect Bustillo who received the commission. According to Ernesto Katzenstein in his article Argentine Architecture in the thirties, published in DAPA, Journal of Decorative Arts in 1992, Madame Ocampo "needed an experienced professional more than a difficult artist or polemic youth to carry out her ideals."

The resulting Ocampo House shows a great tension between the modern ideals the client sought to express and the hesitancy of the architect. The massing of the house and the symmetry and floor plan are rooted in the Beaux Arts with an overlay of Modernism as a style more than as an embodiment of its principles, with unadorned surfaces and clean lines. Like almost all architecture built in the city of Buenos Aires, the house is constructed of brick and covered with stucco. Despite the complexities of architect, patron and style, the Ocampo House is considered the first building in Argentina built in the spirit of Modernism.

The site, with a partial renovation on ground level, is now the home of El Fondo Nacional de las Artes (National Endowment for the Arts). The ground floor has been renovated and now houses gallery space. The upper floors are empty.

Serianne Worden 2004

 


How to visit

The house is located on a small park in the affluent Palermo Chico neighborhood near the center of Buenos Aires. The house is one block from the main thoroughfare of Avenida Libertador at the cross streets of Rufino de Elizade and A.M. de Aguado. The neighborhood is easily accessible via numerous buses or by taxi.

The building is temporarily not open to the public, but appointments to visit can be made by calling El Fondo Nacional de las Artes on
+ 54 11 4343-1590 - or visit www.fnartes.gov.ar for updated information. 

The house can easily be seen from the street.

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