Uruguay Architecture and Urbanism

By | December 20, 2021

In the second half of the last century, with the affirmation of economic liberalism and the consequent private speculation on the urban territory, the foundations of the urban problems of the city of Montevideo were laid, which manifested themselves openly from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present day in the conurbation and in the urban chaos. An extended city with a low population density, Montevideo is the backbone of Uruguayan life; about 40% of the nation’s population lives in its territory and the radial road network, which unites the country with the capital, is proof of its historical and natural importance; in fact, national products, mainly livestock, ship from its port. One of the most important works realized in Montevideo is therefore the port which, begun in 1901, gives the launch of multiple urban and architectural collateral operations (author of the project the French engineer A. Guérard, co-author the engineer Kummer, director of the works; collaborators the engineers L. Andreoni, J. Storn, V. Benavides). Naturally, it is in the capital that the urban and architectural research of the Uruguay find the best equipped experimentation laboratory. For Uruguay 2003, please check computerannals.com.

To the chaos of the ciudad Novísima, which was added to the Ciudad Vieja (colonial) and the Ciudad Nueva (traced in 1932-33), an attempt was made to respond in 1911 with the International Competition for the Trazado General de Avenidas y Ubicación de Edificios Públicos en Montevideo (winners: 1st the Italian A. Guidini, 2nd the German J. Brix, 3rd the Uruguayan EP Baroffio), which has as its precedents the proposals advanced in 1887 to the Uruguayan authorities by the French N. Maillart, inspired by his aimed at those of the prefect Haussmann for the Paris of Napoleon III, tending to consolidate the prestige of the state and which are perfectly suited to the needs of the Uruguayan ruling class; in the Maillart project the monumental conception is maintained, large traffic routes that also visually connect the public buildings, but since Montevideo lacks the political-repressive reasons of the Parisian project, the possibility of speculating on the land is contemplated, thus enhancing the areas close to streets and buildings that connect.

In 1912 a master plan project for the city was presented, drawn up by a technical commission composed of the engineer Gianelli, the architects EP Baroffio and A. Guidini. In 1916 the Sección Embellecimiento de Pueblos y Ciudades (Town and city embellishment section) was created, an office directed by the architect. E. Conforte with the collaboration of the architect. R. Lerena Acevedo, theorist and propeller of the work of this section that reflected the urban thinking of the English H. Howard – the Garden City of the late nineteenth century, rightly transformed into a Garden District -, the road monumentalism of Baron Haussmann and which took into account hygienic considerations necessary in the industrial age. The aesthetic concepts of this office also integrate the regulatory one, a limited surface area and controlled population growth as a function of excellent population density coefficients; solutions visible in the projects developed for various cities, including Salto, Paysandú and Mercedes.

The intervention of the state in the economy, initiated by Varela (1875) and Latorre (1876), the industrial state that Batlle y Ordóñez sketches in his first presidency (1903-7) and which he applies in the second, contain only theoretically the end of private speculation: the municipal legislation tends only to organize the built volumes and the circulation spaces in terms of hygienic-environmental and tramway locomotion, and since 1905 automotive. The Plan Fabini of 1928 will establish the priority of the state over the urban territory for the benefit of the community.

As for parks and gardens, three European experts leave their mark in the years that go from 1890 to 1910 more or less; the Italian G. Veltroni, with the Park and Balneario Capurro (around 1890); C. Thays with the Central Park – currently Batlle y Ordóñez -, the ornamentation of the Bulevar Artigas and adjacent areas, and with the expansion of the Urban Park; the French C. Racine with the Botanical Garden and the Carrasco National Park, his most interesting works. With the structuring of the Durandeau Park (now Rivera) the policy of Parks and Gardens culminates.

At the beginning of the century there were very few Uruguayan architects. In 1894 the first architect of the Faculty of Matemática y Ramas Anexas, created in 1885, graduated; in 1915 the faculty of architecture will open, but the gaze will continue to be turned to Europe, mainly to Paris. Art Nouveau, even if taken in the decorative aspects, is the first modern architectural movement that opposes the reign of eclecticism dragged on by the nineteenth century.

In 1930 a commission chaired by the architect. M. Cravotto and integrated by the architects O. de los Campos, H. Tournier, A. Ricaldoni, M. Puente and by ing. S. Michelini, studies an Anteproyecto of the Plan Regulador de Montevideo: it reaches conclusions similar to those that three years later will inform the Charter of Athens on the contemporary city. The Anteproyecto is countered, with well-founded reasons, by J. Vilamajó, an example of a theorist and architect in search of the authentically Uruguayan, who defends the neighborhood and its spontaneous associative life, that is, of tradition, against the rationalist plans that M Cravotto had helped divulge from his chair of the faculty of architecture and that they have had so much importance in the architectural and urban planning movement of Uruguay. Vilamajó’s positions foreshadow the objections that were made in the 1950s to the non-consideration, by the rationalist movement, of the particular situations in which architecture and urban planning operate. The Plan Regulador office will be created in 1939, Plan Director, a reflection of the new urban and architectural dictates, which together with the law on Centros Poblados and the Nacional de Viviendas (National housing) law, are the tools available to the state to tackle the problem of the growth of the city.

The fifties are happy for national architecture; in 1953 the law of Propiedad Horizontal was passed which increased the construction of buildings for residential use, some of excellent architectural quality, and the most advanced researches were included in the study plans of the faculty of architecture.

Currently the outskirts of the city consists of an area called the “belt of misery”, inhabited by the urban underclass uprooted from the old houses in the center and by rural immigrants.

The new architecture of the Uruguay she is very sensitive to changes in international architecture, but FL Wright is undoubtedly one of the architects who has had the greatest following. Notable architects for the works carried out in the Uruguay o abroad o for theoretical or didactic or practical contributions are: V. Meano and G. Moretti (Palazzo Legislativo, 1925); C. Surraco (competitions of 1929 for the Hospital of Clínicas and for the Institute of Hygiene); C. Gómez Gavazzo (Casa Mendoza, 1932); R. Fresnedo Siri (Faculty of architecture, with M. Muccinelli, 1947); Palazzo della Luce (UTE, 1947); A. Cravotto (extension of the Alemán high school, 1964, Comedor universitario, 1966); G. Jones Odriozola (Palazzo Mónaco, with Villegas Berro, 1955); E. Dieste (Casa Dieste, 1960; Deposito Banco de Seguros, 1960); and again among the notable achievements of architects already mentioned we indicate: the Palacio Municipal (competition of 1930), Casa Cravotto (1932), Hotel Rambla (1935) by M. Cravotto; Banco Republica, central office (with L. Veltroni, 1934) by R. Lerena Acevedo; Casa Vilamajó (project from 1930), Faculty of Ingeniería y Agrimensura (project from 1938), Casa Dodero (1939) by J. Vilamajó.

Uruguay Urbanism