World architecture concentrated in a single country

With a diversity of styles and an avant-garde character, Uruguayan architecture has generated throughout its history works of immense prestige and international awards.

Diversity of styles, languages and polysemic value, as well as a great avant-garde character, allow Uruguay to showcase works that are part of the national historical heritage and contemporary structures that have won international awards for their value and sustainable commitment.

Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, home to a third of its population, is a cosmopolitan city with architecture that shows a colonial and neoclassical style mixed with modern and Art Deco architecture, which flourished during the country’s golden age in the 20th century. Although Uruguay does not have a native architecture, the value of art in the construction of its identity and culture is indisputable.

In the city you can find multiple works with different styles for social and housing use, legislative, state enterprises, and hotels, in many cases with the collaboration of multiple architects. A good example is the Solis Theater, a monumental theater with a neoclassical republican language, dating from 1856, with the participation of more than 19 professionals.

Due to European immigration, the old part of the city displays facades with clear influences of architecture from the old continent, such as the Salvo Palace (1922), part of the Art Deco movement, which at the time was the tallest tower in all of Latin America.

As an example of this variety, the Pittamiglio Castle (1910), located on the Montevidean coast, stands out from its city surroundings and stands out dynamically from its urban context. To pass through its interior is to go through the alchemist tradition, passing through labyrinths, stairs that lead nowhere, blind windows and 54 strange rooms. Currently, guided day and night tours, plays, musicals and a restaurant and cultural space are held in this unique structure.

Among the buildings that house state services, the Telecommunications Tower Complex (2003), the tallest skyscraper in Uruguay, impresses with its steel and glass facade that forms an elemental part of the area’s skyline due to its 33-degree curve in height.

Uruguay welcomes the world with one of its recent architectural landmarks, the Carrasco International Airport (2009), the largest access point to the country, brand new and avant-garde, interacts in the environment with its curved white dome, inspired by the undulating dunes that characterize the Uruguayan coast. In recent reviews it has been highlighted by the BBC as the second most beautiful airport in the world.

Montevideo also invites you to enjoy other works for social use, such as the Antel Arena (2018), a multifunctional sports center par excellence, capable of holding a total of fifteen thousand people, the first and only one in South America with the capacity to meet international standards. Others, such as the Garzón Bridge, the only circular bridge in the world linking the departments of Rocha and Maldonado, designed by the Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoli, combine trafficability and the avant-garde.

In 2016 Uruguay witnessed the construction of the first sustainable school in Latin America located in Jaureguiberry, in the department of Canelones. The building was designed with the Eartship method, which seeks to maximize the use of energy from the sun, water, wind and earth. It was built using up to 10 tons of recycled materials (aluminum cans, tires, glass and cardboard bottles) that together with traditional and natural materials make up a 270 square meter building that is totally self-sufficient with zero cost in heating, cooling, electricity and water consumption. Its sustainable characteristics make this unique construction in Uruguay a powerful learning tool for the children who live in the school and for the surrounding community.

Its architectural variety is also reflected in luxurious hotels in the capital and Punta del Este, the country’s tourist center par excellence. There you can find award-winning works such as the Don Majestic Hotel, awarded for Innovative Architecture in the 2020 edition of the Iconic Awards, a prize given by the German Design Council of Munich. This enormous, futuristic structure of curved lines clad in glass is the first Uruguayan building to receive this international recognition.

In Atlántida, another tourist destination in the region, is the Church of Christ the Worker and Our Lady of Lourdes, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2021. The building, constructed between 1958 and 1960, is the product of the work of the world-renowned Uruguayan engineer Eladio Dieste, who became a reference for the use of what he called reinforced ceramics.

Indeed, the church shines through the use of brick, which is the main protagonist of this structure that combines vaulted forms and makes a spectacular use of space, texture and natural light.

In his most emblematic works Dieste takes brick and takes it to its maximum lightness in the creation of curved surfaces, vaulted constructions, steel reinforcement and a minimum of concrete. The work of the man also known as the “master of bricks” is a worldwide beacon of architecture, design and construction.

Uruguay currently has 10 buildings with LED certification as a result of its constant support for sustainable construction, including offices in free trade zones, warehouses that have been the first to have this certification and awarded worldwide, schools, hospitals and hospitalization centers, among others.

Ph. Fernando Carballo

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