November 22, 2017
Friday, October 24, 2014

Open House II: a peek behind BA’s doors

Detail of the former Bank of London, on Reconquista 101.
Detail of the former Bank of London, on Reconquista 101.
Detail of the former Bank of London, on Reconquista 101.
By Veronica Stewart
For the Herald
Two-day festival grants unique access to public and private buildings throughout the City

Buenos Aires, much like the life it fosters, makes absolutely no sense. Like Gustavo Taretto so accurately puts it in his movie Sidewalls (Medianeras), it grows “uncontrollably and imperfectly.” It is an architectonic and social chaos, and truly getting to know it means walking the streets of its many neighbourhoods, and embracing the peculiarities of each building without really questioning why the style of one is so incongruent with the one next to it. This is what Open House Buenos Aires attempts to get people to do.

For Open House World Wide, it all started in London back in 1923, but the porteño edition came to being only last year.

After volunteering in Barcelona’s Open House, Elisa Rocca, who was then an architecture student, realized that the event was rich and dynamic, and that it should be held in Buenos Aires as well as the nearly 20 others cities that already hosted it. “She called me and a group of friends from university, and we loved the idea”, says Ricardo Pomphile, architect. “That’s how we founded CoHabitar Urbano, and started working on presentations for Open House World Wide to get Buenos Aires to become a part of it.”

Open House is targeted to those interested in rediscovering the architecture and urbanism of Buenos Aires. The two-day festival, which will be taking place this weekend, presents the opportunity to visit both public and private buildings of special cultural and patrimonial value. The idea is to connect with the city, and to walk its streets and look at its architecture in a more heightened and conscious way.

It is an opportunity to see things we come upon on a daily basis in a different light, a chance to be a voyeur, even, and sneak not only into more formal buildings, like the Edificio Pasaje Barolo or that of the newspaper La Prensa, but also residential neighbourhoods like Parque Los Andes and even private homes in Belgrano, Palermo and San Telmo, among others. Furthermore, the festival offers a bike ride through the city (Open Bici), the chance to see murals painted live (Open Muro) and a photography contest (Open Foto).

Last year, for its first edition, the festival opened the doors to sixty buildings and got 10,000 visitors. This year, there are twelve new buildings in that list, and although some were already part of last year’s event, most are new additions. After its success in 2013, the number of participants allowed is now 18,000. “The main difference with last year’s festival is that, because buildings now know how the event works, they not only wish to be a part of it again but they also put together different sets of activities to make the experience much more enriching,” Pomphile told the Herald. The former Bank of London, the residential building Los Eucaliptos and the building SOMISA are just some of the new places this year’s edition has to offer. The tours, given by the volunteers — usually architecture students — are approximately half an hour-long.

Open House Buenos Aires attempts not only to get people who live in the city to enjoy it in a different way, but it also poses an interesting question: what is the best way to really get to know a place, particularly one as cosmopolitan and complex as Buenos Aires? Pomphile claims that “for a deep understanding of the city, it is essential to know its new spaces and their uses.

The reason why our list of buildings is so varied is because we want to be able to understand and reflect upon the workings of our city and the quality of its spaces. Open House allows us to bring down the barrier the separates us from what is usually private so that we can get a peek of what is hidden behind the facades.”

When and where

October 25 and 26, several locations throughout BA. For more information and visitor registration, go to

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