Palacio Barolo
Magnificent building where Dante’s Hell and Heaven live together

Palacio Barolo:  Tour of the magnificent building designed with references to Dante’s Divine Comedy. 

      Avenida de Mayo is one of the most representational avenues in Buenos Aires.  

I connects two most important places in Argentinian capital: Plaza de Mayo flanked by Casa Rosada (Presidential Palace) at one end and the Plaza de Congreso with the National Congress (Parliament) on the other side.

Due to many historical buildings in a prolific combination of art-deco, neoclassic and eclectic styles located along the Avenue de Mayo, in late 1990’s the whole street was declared a National Historic Site and consequently protected from any modifications.

For most visitors to Buenos Aires, abundance of architecturally sophisticated buildings with magnificent façades facing streets is nothing neither new nor unexpected.

Avenida de Mayo links Plaza de Mayo flanked by Casa Rosada (Presidential Palace) at one end (here bottom left) and the Plaza de Congreso with the National Congress (Parliament) on the other side (here top right).

Source: Buenos Aires Ciudad (Tourists Office)

No wonder that many tourists unaware of this “jewel in the crown” as certainly can be called Palacio Barolo pass-by “unmoved” by one more amazing structure, stopping rather few blocks away at the famous Café Tortoni (Avenida de Mayo 829).

Description on the map - (Buenos Aires Ciudad - Ente Tourismo):

The first mayor of Buenos Aires - Torcuato de Alvear, wanted for the city a boulevard like those in Paris. Following his visions the Avenida de Mayo was inaugurated in 1894. It was a biggest construction project in Buenos Aires at that time. This boulevard links Casa Rosada (the seat of National Executive Branch) with the National Congress, holding in between the legendary Plaza de Mayo - a setting for the far-reaching political events in the history of Argentina. 
Avenida de Mayo, with its cafés, bars and restaurants, best reflects the influence of Spanish immigration on the Porteño identity. 

Palacio Barolo: Entrance Gate to Dante's world....

This opinion however does not fully reflects the reality of the Avenida de Mayo. 

If we agree that Buenos Aires is a living example of great human achievements in arts, culture, architecture… then one of the buildings facing the street -  known as Palacio Barolo,  is certainly the quintessence of these accomplishments, a testimony of human visions and dreams.

View on the upper part of the Palacio Barolo from the Avenida de Mayo.

      Two men – a rich industrialist Luis Barolo and an eccentric architect Mario Palanti (both of Italian origin) decided to pay a homage to the great Middle-Age Italian poet Dante Alighieri by designing the Palace with analogies and references to his epic poem The Divine Comedy. 

The concept of Divine Comedy was implemented by dividing the building into three distinctive sections corresponding to the three books of the poem. "Hell" includdes basements and the ground level with medallions on the floor representing flames. "Purgatory" is represented by the first 14 floors with central rooms gradually shrinking making the “ascent” to the uppermost 8 floors of "Heaven". The "Paradise" (Heaven) crowned by the Cupola has access only by narrow stairs.

Most authors relate “golden” proportions of the building, number of floors, rooms per floor, arches, columns, balconies etc. to the poetic composition of the Divine Comedy. So for example building’s 100 meters height represents hundred songs from Dante’s work and 22 floors correspond to the number of stanzas in the verses of Divine Comedy (the stanza is equivalent to a “strophe” in a modern poetry)….and the list can go on. Although some building’s details can be clearly related to Dante’s work, many are very subtle and subject to interpretations that I’m leaving for visitors and scholars.

View of the Palacio Barolo's structure (courtesy of the City of Buenos Aires - Tourism Office) 

      Few facts are however indisputable. The building was inaugurated in 1923 on the day of Dante’s anniversary. Since the inauguration the bronze statue of Dante Alighieri was displayed in the main hall (it disappeared during the years of political turmoil in late 1950’s). And in the central spot of the entrance hall there is a bronze statue of a condor lifting Dante’s body to the Heaven (after years of absence it "miraculously" reappeared after recent renovation). 

View on the Palacio Barolo from the Plaza M. Moreno.

The red tower(s) belongs to the famous Edificio La Inmobiliaria.

      These days the Palacio Barolo may not impress visitors as the most spectacular building in the city. However we should keep in mind that when opened it was the tallest building in all Southern America (this record was overtaken in 1935 by another Buenos Aires’ landmark - Kavanagh Edifice). Barolo required a special permission from the city’s mayor since at that time the city law prohibited structures higher than 30 meters (about 100ft) along the Avenida de Mayo. The modern design using reinforced concrete with a “massive” network of elevators offering private access to offices, apartments and the lighthouse at the top of the building with the rotating beacon was breaking many records of those days.

View on the Palacio Barolo from the Avenida de Mayo

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Architecture of the top cupola has strong Hindu influence; 

Front-View from the Avenida de Mayo

Entrance Hall with its high vaulted ceiling and rich decorations can surprise unsuspecting tourists....

Fragments of decorations in the main hall.

Well, now is time to explore the interior of the building.

Take elevators then climb the stairs to the balconies and to the top lighthouse.

Then after exciting vistas visit the “frozen-in-time” office to feel the atmosphere from the early 1920’s.

To continue the 2nd part of the Palacio Barolo's tour please select the link: Exploring interior of the Palacio Barolo



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