Architect Clorindo Testa (1923-2013) | Martín Marcos

A creator between Apollo and Dionysus

Though born in Naples, Italy and come to the Argentina at the age of five; Clorindo Testa was an overcoat a man of Buenos Aires. A flaneur porteño. Dazzling architect and brilliant artist was a product of an educated and passionate city, of there his principal qualities were nourished and extracted.

Clorindo Testa (1923), arquitecto nacido en Italia y radicado en Argentina. Uno de los representantes de la corriente brutalista en la década de 1960
Clorindo Testa (1923), architect born in Italy and taken root in Argentina. One of the representatives of the current brutalist architecture in the decade of 1960

Formed in the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Buenos Aires, always prefirió the low profile and that his works were speaking for him. Brilliant student discovered early the modernity in the architecture and I adopt the teacher Le Corbusier as modal and professional model to continuing.

For Clorindo Testa painting, sculpture and architecture were a part of the only creative and intellectual universe, where often one and the different thing is difficult to determine the limits between. His abstract paintings and his expressive drawings of a tone sometimes intimist one, dark and severe they contrast with an architecture that always seems to want to infect optimism and happiness. I feel that this duality was living and tensing inside Testa.

He returns to Europe in 1949 with a scholarship of study for young persons taken the degree as the UBA and returns to Buenos Aires three years later assumed as architect and plastic artist.

These days it exposes his pictures in the sea galleries with immediate event and at the age of 28 it gains, together with other colleagues, his first contest of architecture. The racionalist building of 1951 for the Argentina Chamber of the Construction would be the beginning of a long and extensive professional path. Testawould turn into the Argentine architect who more prizes in contests of architecture has managed to harvest along all the 20th century. This realizes of his enormous will and quality of work, but also of the empathy and the support that his expressive and innovative offers have had in the rest of the architectural Argentine community. Unlike other big Argentine architects Head has not harvested festerings or hatreds. His work, for complex and ultramodern, can turn out to be a polemic but it is impossible to find colleagues who have had some lawsuit with him; and it is not small in such a competitive environment and narcissist as that of the architecture. The humility, simplicity and generosity always have distinguished it as a real and elegant gentleman.

Argentina Chamber of the Construction, 1951 |

The first prizes for the works of the Civic Center of the Province of The Pampas and the National Library in Buenos Aires catapult it to the category of “form giver” and the monumental brutalist architecture as an exploratory possible territory for the economic and technological conditions of the Argentine desarrollista of ends of the decade of ’50. That of The Pampas will be a set where there stands out an impressive prismatic volume of 180 meters of length in code Chandigarh, in which there prevail the elegant proportions, shades, abundances, emptinesses and a great plastic adjustment, revealing a solid career education. In the library one forceful “divided” liberates the public space to pedestrian level, concentrates the warehouses of underground books and makes grow, by means of a monumental “tree” of concrete, the rooms of reading in an organic gesture of enormous morphologic power. Also of this epoch they are the urban development model for Catalinas Norte’s sector and the interventions in the cemeteries of the Chacarita and Flores, as product of his work in the area of urbanism of the Municipality of the City of Buenos Aires.

National library in Buenos Aires |

In 1964, with 40 years, Head will be summoned by the solvent and experienced study SEPRA it is necessary to take part of a contest deprived for the new headquarters of the Banco of London in full financial sea City. The resultant building for the corner of Reconquest and Bartolomé Mitre is in my opinion the best work of the Argentine architecture of the 20th century and one of the best of the modern world. The combination between the professional solvency and constructive rigor of the study of the architects Sánchez Elia, Peralta Ramos and Agostini, close to Clorindo Testa’s ultramodern creativity produced a result of great particularity and exceptional beauty. An innovative offer of a modernity certainly influenced by the last one Le Corbusier, but endowed simultaneously with a contextual quality inside the dense fabric tipológico of the ancient neighborhood of the city that is prominent and where I feel that the pupil overcomes the teacher. The corner is treated as a square opening the plot of powerful porticoes of concrete and giving monumental entry, by means of this space of transition roofed of colossal height, to the internal and transparent box that encloses the functions of the bank. There the spatial organization generates a dynamic and suggestive experience of planes and trays suspended in the space. Head breaks with the image of a traditional bank and modernizes it in a radical way, but at the same time it produces a complex lesson of how making compose in a dialogue in a nice and respectful way strong gestures and architectural forms with the preexisting city.

Sight of the column and stairs snail that works as axis about which there are articulated the plants of the building of the Banco of London and South America in the city of Buenos Aires (today Banco Hipotecario). Architects: Study SEPRA and Clorindo Testa (Asoc.).1966 | Source: Magazine “Summa” n ° 6/7. December, 1966, Buenos Aires | Author: Eduardo Colombo |

Clorindo Testa was an educated, many-sided creator, not-year-old dogmatist great trade and creative capacity. His works of intervention in the most former colonial set of the peaceful monks, in the years ‘ 70, gave place to one of the most dynamic cultural public and dear centers of the city, making the idea of “recycling” popular in these latitudes and installing a capture of conscience I concern of the architectural heritage and his potentials.

His housings also will be a motive of experimentation and of search of a singularly provocative poetics, from the colouring volumes and irregular geometry of the houses The Tumbona and CapoTesta on the Argentine coast, up to the buildings of collective housing as the successful set of the street Castex 3335. There Head works the idea of balconies – courts for the departments and achieves a not traumatic insertion of the typology in tower inside the compact fabric of the sea apple. Head demonstrates us all the time that always first is the city, even in an architecture of gestualidad formally so powerfully as his.

Set of Housings Castex 1975-1985 |

His step along the university teaching was fleeting, a chair had in the University of Buenos Aires at the end of the years ‘ 50 but to a little time knew that it was not for him; he did not find there this pleasure and concentration that alone him there were giving his study, his atelier and the dialog ensimismado and playfully with his works. It I do not prevent in order that the own UBA was naming it “Doctor Honoris-causes” and a few years afterwards, in 2006, the city of Buenos Aires was distinguishing it as “illustrious citizen”.

Testa teaches for his works, doing more with less, and it in a country where the resources skimp is an almost an ethical and moral commitment. It forms a of understanding the profession. His minimalist and economic offer of 1987 for the headquarters of the Institute of Cooperation Iberoamericana-ICI in a narrow and tortuous basement with a minim entered on the street Florida in Buenos Aires is a testimony of this way of understanding the architecture as service and opportunity. The architecture can and must make the life better, seems to say to us. His happy search, but frivolous, of the beauty has never led it to experiencing forms, colors and textures of great expressiveness but without being careless nor to do concessions in the own function and the usefulness of the best architecture. His works bear in mind always the idea – force of a clear and forceful “party”, but also they invite to a more intimate tour and fenomenológico for the details, the climates and the small winks that the creator is leaving us along this rich promenade that proposes us to travel.

Clorindo Testa in his study | Photography: pruxo |

A great architect and successful artist has gone away that from his individual optics has created a brilliant and unrepeatable work. It must serve, of equal form that he I raise his relation with Le Corbusier, as creative inspiration and not as model to copying. In her permanently the reason and the emotion coexist. Testa could take, with intelligence and moderation, of Apollo and of Dionysus that each one tape-worm to give him. There and in his love to the city there resides the principal value of his testament.

Martin Marcos . Architect and town planner. Titular teacher FADU UBA

buenos aires. april 2013

Martín Marcos

Docente de la Facultad de Arquitectura, Diseño y Urbanis­mo (UBA) y director del Museo de Arquitectura y Diseño de la Socie­dad Central de Arquitectos en Buenos Aires hasta 2018. Actualmente lleva la dirección del Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo – MNAD, en el Palacio Errázuriz-Alvear. 

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