Heritage and a booming tech scene make Argentina’s buzzing, elegant capital attractive to locals and expats alike. Porteños, as residents call themselves, can also boast that their city has become a major design destination.
Buenos Aires was built during waves of mass immigration from Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries, and this history gives it a cosmopolitan culture. The city’s architecture is a showcase for a mix of Spanish colonial and Italianate styles, art nouveau, art deco, neogothic and French Bourbon.
Teatro Colón, a French-style opera house completed in 1908 after taking 20 years to build, is one of the best in the world, famed for its excellent acoustics which, according to the late Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, have the capacity to highlight a singer’s every mistake.
Not only do residents get to see fine architecture at every turn when they walk the windy streets of historic Buenos Aires, but the city has also attracted international attention for its emerging design scene. The first city to earn Unesco’s City of Design title, Buenos Aires is home to the annual arteBA festival, South America’s largest contemporary art fair, which draws more than 100,000 artists, design lovers and curators each May.
Throughout the year, locals can visit the CMD, the Metropolitan Design Centre, in the historic neighbourhood of Barracas. The centre is a mixed space of government offices, start-up hubs and a museum, and is Latin America’s largest design centre.
This year, Buenos Aires has been in the spotlight as the first participant in the Art Basel Cities programme, an international project between the art world and nascent art capitals, which included a series of public events and citywide exhibitions in September.
Burgeoning start-up scene
Estate agent Savills’ 2017 Tech Cities report named Buenos Aires as one of 22 cities at the forefront of tech, behind established North American, Asian and European hubs and emerging world cities such Santiago, the capital of Chile. The report suggests Buenos Aires, ranked at 21, ahead of Cape Town, is a “magnet for talent in [its] region and has the potential to become a major world player”.
Argentina has created four of the six unicorns (start-up companies valued at more than $1bn) in South America over the past 10 years. Two of these — online travel company Despegar.com and ecommerce site MercadoLibre.com — are in Buenos Aires, while international consultancies Deloitte and Accenture and telecoms group Telefónica have headquarters in the regenerated tech neighbourhood of Parque Patricios.
Cooling property market
Waves of international buyers attracted to Buenos Aires from the early 2000s by its low cost of living and cheap accommodation caused property prices to increase consistently year on year. However, earlier this year, the FT reported that the number of those “lifestyle” expat buyers was diminishing, meaning more people, including younger buyers and renters from the US and France, are relocating for good.
According to Carolina Dumais, a broker at ReMind Group, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate, Argentina’s market in has cooled in the past year because of currency fluctuations and inflation. “The dollar went from 18 pesos to 31 pesos, which means a devaluation of 70 per cent in the last four months,” she says. While house prices have not fallen, Dumais predicts they will do so over the coming year.
Wildlife on the doorstep
An antidote to the city’s extensive urban development and notorious traffic, the Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur, tucked between Rio de la Plata and the Puerto Madero district, is a 360-hectare wetland inhabited by native plants and animals.
This waterfront oasis is home to more than 290 species of bird, including Argentina’s national bird, the rufous hornero. Access is free and the reserve is a mere 20-minute bus ride from Plaza de Mayo in the centre of Buenos Aires.
Photographs: Eduardo Basualdo, courtesy Art Basel; Alamy Stock Photo; Dreamstime; AFP/Getty Images; Getty Images