Completed in 1966 by Clorindo Testa and SEPRA Studio, the new headquarters for the Bank of London in Buenos Aires radically changed the traditional image of a bank. The building is an example of how to make strong gestures and architectural forms coexist in a friendly and respectful way with the pre-existing city.
Bank of London Technical Information
- Architects: Clorindo Testa & SEPRA (Sánchez Elía, Santiago; Peralta Ramos, Federico; Agostini, Alfredo)
- Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Topics: Concrete, Brutalism, Modernism
- Type: Bank, office building
- Project Year: 1959 – 1966
- Photographs: © ArchEyes, © Federico Cairoli, © Cemal Emden, © Hernán Zenteno
It is not about making windows but about drilling walls.
– Clorindo Testa
London Bank Headquarters in Buenos Aires Photographs
In 1959 the young Clorindo Testa was invited by the experienced SEPRA studio to participate in a private competition for the design of the new Bank of London Headquarters in the heart of Buenos Aires, one hundred meters away from the historic Plaza de Mayo.
The building is considered to be one of the best works of architecture in Argentina of the 20th century and a turning point in the quest for local modernity. The combination between the professional solvency and constructive rigor of SEPRA studio, together with the avant-garde creativity of Clorindo Testa, produced a particular result of exceptional beauty, where the dramatic and bold structure plays a determining role.
An innovative proposal for modernity positively influenced by the brutalism of the last Le Corbusier, but at the same time endowed with remarkable quality and contextual respect within the dense fabric of the city’s old quarter. The narrow corner is treated as a square, interrupting the plot of the vast concrete porticos, thus forming a monumental entrance.
The project subverts many of the assumptions that were supposed to be immovable for a bank. The project responded to the need to renew the image of the institution that launched the competition. The usual massive and opaque walls are now very transparent for the parameters of the time, with the glass forming a second skin that runs behind the concrete screens.
The interior space, product of a daring structural operation, is multiple, complex, open-plan, with an urban will. It allows cross gazes from inside out, from one level to another, from top to bottom and from bottom to top. The public and employees circulate through generous, vibrant spaces. Light enters through the perforated screens and spills onto the exquisitely treated exposed concrete surfaces that materialize the entire building.
A large concrete column organizes the central space of the building, both spatially and structurally. A staircase is sculpturally coiled on one of its sides, but this item is also an elevator box. The four upper slabs (for internal use of the bank) hang using steel tensioners from the roof slab, the two lower levels (for public use) are trays that are supported by fungiform columns, clearing the central space in multiple heights. Neither the upper slabs nor the trays touch the large central column, the facades, or the party walls. Through these operations, Testa frees the plans and makes the space more flexible.
Testa breaks with the traditional image of a bank and radically updates it. Still, at the same time, it produces a sophisticated and intelligent lesson on how to make strong gestures and architectural forms coexist in a friendly and respectful way with the pre-existing city.
In 1999 the building was declared a National Historic Monument.
London Bank Plans
London Bank Headquarters in Buenos Aires Image Gallery
About Clorindo Testa
Clorindo Manuel José Testa was an Italian architect who achieved great recognition in the second half of the 20th century. Among his most famous works in the history of Argentine architecture are the former Bank of London and the National Library.
Other works from Clorindo Testa
About SEPRA Studio
SEPRA was a prolific studio of Argentine architects, formed in 1936 by Santiago Sánchez Elía, Federico Peralta Ramos, and Alfredo Agostini. During the five decades of existence, they made over a thousand projects and built more than two million square meters. The studio is responsible for some of the most essential and well-known buildings in Buenos Aires.