Postcard from... Buenos Aires


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The Independent Online

Walk down any back street in central Buenos Aires and you’re likely to stumble upon some unexpected architectural delight, a reminder of the wealth and power Argentina once wielded. The end of the 19th century was the height of its decadence, when no expense was spared and materials were shipped over at the whim of the architect.

Palacio de Aguas Corrientes (Palace of Flowing Waters) is testament to this, an imposing ceramic-clad behemoth completed in 1894. The French renaissance-style facade comprises 300,000 glazed multi-coloured terracotta tiles commissioned especially from renowned British ceramic maker Royal Doulton.

Many deemed it frivolous to spend so much on a building with a practical function yet it was not unusual for the exteriors of railway stations to be palatial in appearance in Buenos Aires at that time.

While it continues to function as both a pumping station and as the headquarters for the state-run water company, few are aware of the museum within, with weird and wonderful artefacts of the water-refining process, kooky mock-period offices, and one particular highlight – the glass-partitioned room containing row upon row of old toilet bowls. Marcel Duchamp would have had a field day.