Proto-industrial insertions restore this old fish market in Buenos Aires without compromising its distinctive historical character
Dating from the mid 1930s, Buenos Aires Fish Market originally formed part of the industrial quarter of Barracas in the south-east of the capital. Gradually over time, like many old market buildings, it became an urban reference point, but also over time it fell into disuse, eventually closing as a working fish market in 1983.
Now, in an equally familiar scenario, it has been restored and converted into a home for Metropolitan Design Centre, combining government offices to promote creative industries and foreign trade, with some 70 incubators for small start-ups, an auditorium, classrooms, workshops, laboratories, exhibition space, a library, museum, neighbourhood interpretation centre and café.
The old building was colonised by a series of double-height pavilions surrounding a large central area. Using this template and alluding to the structure of the surrounding cityscape, the renovation creates a flexible armature of spaces, volumes and internal streets, revitalising a neglected part of the city.
The market’s steel-framed structure defines and articulates hierarchies such as the main walkway, side naves and bays. A series of new pavilions resembling super-scale pieces of furniture lines the internal streets, giving them the character of social spaces − or indeed a new kind of market incubating design talent rather than selling fish. Drawing on the language of the existing building, new insertions are robust and proto-industrial. And though the existing fabric is spruced up, its essentially stough and distinctive historic character is not compromised.
Architect: Paolo Gaston Flores
Photographs: Gustavo Sosa Pinilla and Federico Kulekdjian