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Architecture for the Community: Plaza Houssay by RDR Arquitectos

Architecture for the Community: Plaza Houssay by RDR Arquitectos

Plaza Houssay by RDR Arquitectos ph. Javier Agustín Rojas

This project is featured in NESS.docs 2: “Landscape as Urbanism in the Americas.” The issue takes its name from a project led by the Office for Urbanizationation at Harvard GSD. It explores the potentials for landscape as a medium of urban intervention in the specific social, cultural, economic, and ecological contexts of Latin American cities. The issue will be available very soon. Sign-up to our newsletter to be the first to know!

Located in one of the most centric and crowded zones in Buenos Aires, a city with more than 650 inhabitants per hectare, Dr. Bernardo A. Houssay square was built in 1975 on the grounds of the previously existing Buenos Aires Hospital. Surrounded by six faculties of the University of Buenos Aires that gather more than 100,000 students (Medicine and Biochemics, Odontology, Social Sciences, and Economic Sciences), the square was progressively disfigured by a series of partial and uncoordinated actions that fragmented its configuration. It eventually became a dangerous area to walk in at night. In 2007 the Government of the city of Buenos Aires launched a competition for the recent acquisition of the underground parking located under the park, encouraging projects that aimed to recycle part of the parking into new public and cultural spaces that complemented the redefinition of the square. The winning design from RDR Arquitectos focused on four main strategies. 

Ph. Javier Agustín Rojas 

A Green Perimetral Ring:
Organized in large green petals without defined corners, this ring makes up an urban park with many different green spaces and multipurpose areas that include health stations and sports courts.   

A Safe Space:
Due to the previous status of the square as a dangerous place, new pedestrian paths were proposed that allow students to circulate in a fast and safe way. Combined with the illumination of the park, the square can be used as an efficient public space again. 

A Central Public Square:
The architects planned to relocate the square’s center and to create value around the existent San Lucas Church. This new area of 100 square meters at the shadows of the ancient Jacaranda trees creates a safe and dynamic space.

A Social Area:
Preconceived as the church’s plinth, this new multi-purpose space is located underneath the central public square and in front of an important avenue that crosses the city, Avenue Cordóba. A segment leans slightly towards the center of the block, creating a natural amphitheater that guides and connects the perimeter with the new cultural uses and services. It also has connections to the subway and the parking. Due to the new activities proposed, this sector extends the daily timeframe in which the square can be used.

 The investigation, lead by RDR Arquitectos, looked into the possible ways of projecting sustainably the public space. The idea was to recover and value the pre-existing landscapes although increasing its green areas. At the same time, new functions were proposed that increase the thermal stability of the square: microclimates, retention of polluting atmospheric particles, preservation of the habitat and existing biodiversity, and the absorption and slowdown of rainwater. 

LOCATION: Buenos Aires, Argentina / DATE: 2017 (competition), 2019-to present (construction) / BUILT AREA: 46.000 sqm, 495139.879 sf  / STATUS: Built / DESIGN TEAM: Ignacio Dahl Rocha, Bruno Emmer, Facundo Morando, architects / COLLABORATORS: Rodrigo Muro, Roberto Lombardi, Sofía Vivacqua, Martina de Barba, Clara Carrera, Juan Benítez, Facundo Burgos, Matías Brun, Tomás Pérez Amenta, Nicolás Adrian, Lucía Iglesias, architects / CONSULANTS: Sebastián Berdichevsky, Structural Engineering, Julio Argentino Blasco Diez, Thermomechanical Engineering, Marcelo Alignani, José Portela, Electrical Installation, Verónica Gilotau, Lighting / LANDSCAPE: Grupo Landscape / PHOTOS: Javier Agustín Rojas  

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