Monday, March 13, 2006

Up and Up

Sitting at a café, I discovered on the table before me a copy of La Nación, the stuffy, venerable daily founded by the historian, military man, and President Bartolomé Mitre in 1870. Though it is not my newspaper of choice, I am fond of reading and, to paraphrase Cervantes, will pick up anything, even torn papers found on the street.

On the back page of the first section, there is an article whose headline reads: “In the last 30 years, Buenos Aires has lost 30% of its homes.”
A few paragraphs down one realizes that the headline is a bit sensationalist. It is not that Buenos Aires is suffering a massive housing crisis, rather 30% of one or two floor dwellings have disappeared and been replaced by apartment towers over the past three decades. How this matches up with a other big cities, I’d like to know.

The article cites the middle class neighborhoods of Caballito, Villa Urquiza and Palermo as the areas that have seen the most growth.

In Palermo, the neighborhood where I am living, the bristling line of high-rises that begins on the Avenida Santa Fe is quickly overtaking autoshops, compact “chorizo” houses and newer brick chalets. Realtors for some time now have taken delight in subdividing the neighborhood with aspirational labels. Palermo Viejo has experienced a speculative mitosis and contains Palermo SoHo and Palermo Hollywood.

Billboards that conceal the ground level of construction sites display glossy, computer-generated images of the building-to-come whose accompanying text touts the future structure as a sound investment. Whether or not these are enjoyable places to live is taken for granted.

The article in La Nación interviews the spokesmen of several construction and real estate associations, who worry that the city’s infrastructure won’t be able to keep up with the rapid growth that is regulated by a building code they feel is restrictive.

An editorial piece titled “An Acceptable Tendency” accompanies the article, which encourages the continued build-up, though offers a word of caution: vaguely alluding to “scientific” studies, the author warns us of the psychological damage that children suffer from splitting time between a twentieth floor penthouse and a weekend country home. Apparently they develop antisocial behavior. If only we all could.


Blogger realbuenosaires said...

not a chance of the infrastructure keeping up, especially the water and sewage some point in the future we'll all be putting our shitty paper in a bin next to the toilet, like in much of the third world, instead of straight into the toilet...

the massive construction boom also explains why i'm having to build a 4 metre high tower on the top of my new house to put a water tank on. The mains pipes are too small and the new constructions are sucking up all the water available reducing the water pressure in homes connected directly to the mains all over the city...welcome to the non-existent world of porteño urban planning...

6:44 PM  

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