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07/21/2014

"Tour of Palacio Barolo" by Richelle Jurasek, Occidental College

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On one of the rainiest days that we have seen thus far in Buenos Aires, Karlyn, Katie and I caught a misty glimpse of the city from the 22nd floor of the famous Palacio Barolo on Avenida de Mayo. We were guided up the palace by a sweet Argentine tour guide, making frequent stops to learn about the history of this historic building located in the city center. Designed by Luis Barolo and built by Mario Palanti between 1919 and 1923, the Palacio Barolo was built as a tribute to Palanti’s Italian compatriot, Dante Alighieri and his Divine Comedy.  Through both decorative and functional design traits, the building conveys the union between Dante and Beatriche, the two protagonists of the work. 

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The design of the building is incredibly complex and detailed. Architecturally, it is a confluence of Venetian Gothic design and religious images from India. The colors of the tiles that form circles on the ground floor are red, white, and green, the colors of the Italian flag. The 22 floors of the building are divided into three sections that reference the Divine Comedy, the ground floor representing el Infierno (hell), the first 14 floors, el Purgatorio (purgatory), and the following floors that lead to the top, el Paraíso (paradise). At the very top of the left-side tower, is the great faro light that holds 300,000 bujías (light power) and represents God. This enormous revolving searchlight is a beacon to Palacio Salvo in Montevideo, Uruguay, also constructed by Palanti. With their faro lights, the two palaces welcome travelers entering the Rio de la Plata by the sea, almost serving as concrete lighthouses. Back inside the building, the black and white tiles on the many floors represent the duality between good and evil, another recurring theme in the Comedy.

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The highlight of our tour were the incredible views that we saw from the both the 14th floor and the faro room. At 100 meters, Palacio Barolo held the title of the tallest building in the city until the construction of the Kavanaugh in 1935. Gazing out towards the left, el Congreso Nacional and its surrounding parks light up the skyline, encircled by the many recent skyscrapers that now give the palace a run for its money. To the right, the glowing pink lights of the Casa Rosada demand attention, and a little farther away is the building that depicts the face of Evita Peron. Despite the wind and the rain, we stepped out onto the balconies to take in this incredible sight, snapping pictures and standing in amazement at the beautiful night sky.

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At the top of the tower, our tour guide turned on the faro, and we were instantly blinded by the powerful light. We learned that every 25th day of each month, the light is turned on to honor the patria and the independence of the country. It can be seen circling from miles around, reflecting in the night sky and the clouds. As usually is the case, our pictures do not do this magnificent palace justice, and we are very thankful to have had the opportunity to see the city from this unique perspective, especially being in a place filled with so much history.

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