An Open House Favorite: Pasaje General Paz
Article by Sorcha O’Higgins.
Colegiales is a leafy and peaceful neighbourhood in the north of Buenos Aires. Its cobbled streets, residential atmosphere and an abundance of schools give it distinctly suburban feel, making it a haven for young families and those who have outgrown the chaos of inner-city life. High-rise apartment buildings can be found around Colegiales, but it is more broadly characterized by low-rise residential units and single family houses, contrasting sharply with the built-up density of neighbouring Belgrano. One of the most picturesque residences in the area is Pasaje General Paz, an early 20th century housing complex that was conceived of initially as a “collective living space”.
Located in a “manzana”, or city block, south of Avenida Federico Lacroze, Pasaje General Paz cuts through the centre of the block from Ciudad de la Paz to Zapata. It has entrances on both streets, creating a “pasaje” or passage through the block. Built in 1925 by Pedro Vinent, an architect and the owner of the land, it began life as a “conventillo” or shared tenement, but was a more upscale version of those found in lower class neighbourhoods like La Boca from around the same period. The rectangular footprint of the complex sees 57 apartments spread over 4 floors. All the apartments are arranged around the perimeter of the plan and have an internalised orientation to overlook three central atria (the long rectangle of the plan is divided in three between Zapata and Ciudad de la Paz) which are open to the sky. Entrances to the apartments are via a shared balcony that contributes to the feeling of communal living in the residence and encourages social interaction in the circulation spaces.
The ground floor courtyard is idyllic – paved with black and white tiles and filled with vegetation, it provides a beautiful natural contrast to the whitewashed walls and the framed sky above. The wrought iron balconies above too are laden with plants and flowers, creating a tranquil domestic oasis that belies Pasaje General Paz’s location within the porteno metropolis.
Pasaje General Paz, although originally intended as social housing, has endured more as a successful example of collective living, which is interesting if compared to the tower block model of social housing in the UK that began in the 1950’s and continued for the next 20 years. The tower block had many of the same aspirations as the pasaje, although ultimately proved disastrous in terms of urban planning and social cohesiveness.
The tower block was organised on an inverted principal to that of Pasaje General Paz – residences were surrounded by and looked out onto open space, as opposed to the facing into and surrounding the shared space. The former was intended to provide great views and generous outdoor areas, but instead resulted in an excess of poorly planned, underused and badly maintained recreational zones interspersed with isolated towers. In comparison, the patio in Pasaje General Paz is an overwhelmingly positive and well utilised space enclosed by an inclusive architecture.
Communal circulation and deck access are also common to both models, although these elements in the tower block had the opposite effect they were designed to have. The common stairwells in tower blocks became a dark and menacing no-man’s land, while the deck access divided residents instead of uniting them, both fostering the social problems they were supposed to solve. Pasaje General Paz, on the other hand, is aesthetically and socially defined by the bohemian grandeur of the floating balconies overhead and the concealed vertical circulation.
Pasaje General Paz is perhaps the most well maintained example of this type of architecture in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, it is a private residence and so cannot be admired to its full extent. However, once a year in October, Open House BsAs allows you to see behind closed doors and exlpore the Pasaje for yourself. It is still worth the visit though, as the views afforded from the street attest to the quaint and holistic nature of the gallery.
- Pasaje General Paz
- Ciudad de la Paz 561 / Zapata 552