The monument to the Liberator in Plaza General San Martín is one of the most important and spectacular that Buenos Aires has. Not only because of who he is: one of the few undisputed heroes in national and regional history. Also for the artistic value of the equestrian monument and the sculptural ensemble that surrounds it. And, in addition, by the place where it is located, with an almost ideal landscape and architectural setting.
In front of the monument, resting on a large esplanade of white tiles, serves as the visual auction of Santa Fe Av. Photo MARCELO CARROLL
But as with many other jewels of our sculptural heritage it is frequently target of vandalism. This one, the most admired monument to San Marín, was left without a saber, a laurel wreath and even without helmets and commemorative plaques.
The Buenos Aires Government, through the Ministry of Public Space and Urban Hygiene and the Ministry of Security, took action on the matter. Starting at the beginning of the year, he undertook a series of works to protect it. That beyond being necessary, due to the decisions on how to do it, they opened controversy.
Monument and city
During the 20th century, urban planners tried different ways of planning cities with more or less success. The Italian Aldo rossi was one of those who promoted the return to the traditional and historical values of the cities. He said that they are structured based on their main and secondary axes (avenues and streets), squares, connective tissue (blocks) and monuments. And that it is the latter that condense the collective memory of its inhabitants.
If you know about this the monument to San Martín. It was born in 1862, when we were enlivened that Chile was building one. So it seems that the president Bartolomé Miter, which was with the theme of building a national myth, asked the French sculptor Louis Joseph Daumas make a replica.
The equestrian statue arrived unarmed on April 13, 1862 and was originally inaugurated on a white marble plinth facing east on July 13.
The original 1862 monument, made by French sculptor Louis Joseph Daumas, had a white marble pedestal and was latticework.
For the Centennial, we were not doing so bad. You had to celebrate and get your chest out. The German took care of that Gustav Eberlein who completed the modest foundation by erecting a monument to the Armies of Independence, with four milestones of the feat: the Crossing of the Andes, The Proclamation of the Independence of Peru, the Battle of Salta and the Taking of Montevideo. The sculptural ensemble, now with its pedestal in polished dragon red granite, opened on 27 May 1910 taking advantage of the occasion to give it the current orientation, with the statue looking north.
It was the German Gustav Eberlein who completed the modest foundation by erecting a monument to the Armies of Independence, with a red granite pedestal. Photo MARCELO CARROLL
The safeguard works
Returning to the present, the Buenos Aires government did not find a better formula than put bars to protect the monument. But, in addition to that installation, the Ministry of Security implemented a digital ring with cameras. They replaced the projectors that illuminate the monument with ones with greater power and incorporated new luminaires in the environment.
The monument renovated, equipped with security cameras and newer and more powerful lighting. Photo MARCELO CARROLL
Foreshortening of the monument, illuminated by new reflectors. Photo MARCELO CARROLL
“The bars are like the ones on the Monument to the two Congresses”, commented the architect Juan Vacas, Undersecretary of Urban Landscape. But they did not come alone. To disguise them he is they placed stonemasons next to them with plants seeking to achieve a effect similar to flower beds that had the monument at the beginning of the century.
Historical aerial image of the monument and its surroundings.
Photo of the sculptural group, with the Kavanagh in the background: one of the images that inspired the Ministry of Public Space to put beds around the monument.
The style bars, supported by a profusion of struts; and the new flowerbeds inspired by the parterre that it had at the beginning of the last century. Photo MARCELO CARROLL
One of the sides of the monument, with the new intervention. Photo MARCELO CARROLL
The last touches on the right side. In the background, the Tipas and the Kavanagh looms. Photo MARCELO CARROLL
From Urban Landscape they say that the Tipa that fell during the storm of November 25 was also replaced. The broken floors and the stairway on Av. Santa Fe and Maipú, damaged by a traffic accident in 2020, are being repaired. In addition, the 16 ornamental helmets were restored that crown 4 of the pilasters and the San Martín plaque, stolen in 2016 and 2020, was replaced. These pieces were reproduced in the Monuments and Works of Art (MOA) site, known as the Palermo Statues Hospital.
The restoration and replicas of pieces were made at the Hospital de Estatuas de Palermo.
An operator placing one of the recovered pieces in the Sculpture Hospital,
Now you advance with the reproduction of the lateral relief of the Monument in commemoration of the centenary of the Battle of Maipú. And then the restorers will begin work on the subsequent reliefs.
The commemorative plaque returns to its place.
The work of restorers, making use of technology, to recover and preserve valuable pieces of heritage.
But how any intervention in the heritage, no matter how small, it can split the library. For some, already the fact of going to the rescue, placing cameras, lighting and having tried to reproduce bars and flowerbeds of the last century is enough; for others, not enough.
It is that this sculptural group that honors the Liberator and the Libertarian Armies officiates as visual auction of Santa Fe Avenue, with that fantastic background of big and old Tipas. It is masterfully supported on a monumental scale esplanade, of white tiles, that extend in the square to the limit of the canyon configuring a large balcony-gazebo towards Avenida del Libertador, Retiro and well in the distance, farther and farther, that of the Río de la Plata.
From this view of the monument as part of a whole, one of the points of controversy arises. He explained it to me quite indignant an emeritus professor of Architecture of the UBA, who preferred to remain anonymous. Words more, words less said: “Well, suppose you have to tolerate bars because after all they might be temporary … Someday they will be removed. But the stonemasons !? They break the forcefulness and monumentality of that white plane where the monument supports. To top, they are to hide the bars… ”The other point is the bars. Some bars that seem to be a reflection of what happens to us. Not only because of the remany vandalism connotations. Also due to the lack of an adequate design.
It is that beyond choosing to make them in style (which would be part of another discussion), they look like the scenery from cowboy movies, with struts at the back so that they do not fall. Of course, those of the monument to the Two Congresses are similar, as Juan Vacas says. But they are very different from the ones they put in front of the Palace of Congress Because of their shape and thickness, they hardly need these prostheses (only 3 struts). And not to mention the original bars of this Palace (1906), those facing Combate de los Pozos street, that imposing fence, robust, almost a wall, that protects the backyard but which is an integral part of the building’s architecture. No, a set design.
So, if we assume that these defenses that we all want to be temporary will remain for a long time, their design should give them the thickness that corresponds to a public work. For example, I checked those of the Monument to the Two Congresses … They are already deteriorated.