How many lives does a great work of architecture have? The first begins when it is built and inhabited, judged based on the quality of life it provides for its residents. The second comes generations later when it becomes historically significant and perhaps its original function no longer suits the demands of society. The value of such buildings is that they inform us about the past and for that reason their conservation is necessary.
However, in Latin America, there are countless cases of buildings of great architectural value that are in tragic states of neglect and deterioration. Seven such examples are:
1. Los Manantiales by Félix Candela
Mexico City, Mexico
Los Manatiales was built in 1957 in Xochimilco. It is a place of great cultural significance for Mexico City because of its pre-Hispanic origins. Its architect, Félix Candela, proposed a design that could be integrated with the gardens, in that it had a structure similar to a lotus flower. The usable space was designed at the intersection of 4 hyperbolic paraboloids that resemble the flower´s petals.
The building is currently used as a restaurant and as dance space with live music, however, both the interior and exterior have seen better days. The effects of the humidity and time are visible in the falling paint and missing tiles, which either vary or haven´t been replaced.
2. Parador Ariston by Marcel Breuer
Mar de Plata, Argentina
Located in the La Serena neighborhood of Mar de Plata, Argentina, the Parador Ariston was built by the Hungarian architect Marcel Breuer in 1948. It was intended as a space for social gatherings, dances, and cocktails. The main space is elevated one level with curvy walls, which were inspired by a clover, allowing maximum glazing and sunlight.
Sadly, the building is in ruins and total neglect, despite various citizen initiatives to restore it. The walls are covered in graffiti and the windows are nailed with wood. It is unlikely that these conditions will improve as the building lacks heritage protection by local authorities.
3. Casa Robles Castillo by Luis Barragán
In 1926 the doctor Adolfo Robles León commissioned young Luis Barragán to build his first house. The result was Casa Robles Castillo the American colony of Guadalajara.
In recent times, the house has been rented for varying commercial uses, among those it has been a restaurant and bar, a Subway franchise, and currently is a Texan style taco restaurant. In the time that passed between tenants, the house was neglected and tagged with graffiti. While the suitability of its most recent use is often debated, it is without a doubt better than abandonment.
Declared a Historic Monument in 2007, the Copelec building in Chillán is considered one of the most important works of its time. The building by Juan Borchers, Jesús Bermejo, and Isidro Suárez, is of brutalist design and was planned as an office building for Borchers in 1962. As one of the few works by Borchers (1910- 1975), it is, along with Casa Meneses, one of his most emblematic works.
Although in 2013 rumors emerged stating that the building was to be restored and converted into a cultural center, it remains in its existing use as an office, warehouse and bike storage for its owner, Chillán´s Electrical Cooperative.
5. Club de Yates Santa Paula by Vilanova Artigas
São Paulo, Brazil
Built in 1961, this building has a rectangular cover of tripartite slabs with eight pillars symmetrically arranged on both sides, directly supported by the foundations and stone walls. The higher level has continuity with the height of the road and the lower level occupies 2/3 of the covered area and is situated at the height of the lake.
While the building has great value as modern Brazilian architecture, its deterioration and mistreatment began when it stopped being used.
6. Ladera de la Misericordia by Lina Bo Bardi
Lina Bo Bardi was one of the most important and expressive architects in Brazilian architecture in the twentieth century. The building, Ladera de la Misericordia, was built in 1987. Consisting of two mortar cylinders that hosted a restaurant with a large tree growing in its center, light flooding the space through its open roof.
The building is an important example of the harmonious union between colonial architecture and the modernist movement. However, the current owner of the building, the Gregório de Mattos Foundation, have neglected it, leaving it with rubble and broken shutters.
7. The Greenhouse in Quinta Normal Park
The Greenhouse in Quinta Normal Park is a National Monument in Santiago with over 150 years of history. According to estimations it was built in 1866 and installed in the park in 1890 as a plant observatory. However, since 1995 it has had no designated use and remains abandoned.
Despite announcements in 2014 with regard to its restoration, it wasn´t until April 2016 when the National Monuments Board approved the initiative proposed by the Santiago Municipality. The restoration project will begin this year.