Plaza 25 de Mayo, Buenos Aires (ca. 1900)

The City Beautiful Movement’s connections to European Baroque architecture and planning traditions can be glimpsed through Spanish colonial cities such as Buenos Aires as well as European  examples. Buenos Aires’s Plaza de Mayo has its origins in the 1573 Leyes de indias (Laws of the Indies), a set of Spanish guidelines for the construction and planning of New World colonial cities along Baroque lines. The Laws of the Indies stipulated a plaza to mark the heart of the city and serve as the center point for its street grid. The grand boulevard at the center of the plaza, Avenida de Mayo, was not constructed until the 1880s. It connects Plaza de Mayo with the domed Congressional Palace of Argentina, barely visible on this postcard at the far end of the boulevard. The buildings along Avenida de Mayo were constructed in the Beaux-Arts style, a mode similar to that employed in the mid-nineteenth-century reconstruction of Paris and promoted in the Plan of Chicago.

The South American planning tradition exemplified by Buenos Aires met the North American City Beautiful Movement in the Plan of Minneapolis, authored by Edward H. Bennett and published in 1917. Lewis H. Gillette, a prominent Minneapolis engineer and industrialist who worked many years in the specialty steel business, promoted Buenos Aires as a model for Minneapolis after visiting the Argentinian city in 1909. Gillette described Buenos Aires’s European planning traditions to other men of influence in Minneapolis. Bennett’s Plan of Minneapolis includes a photograph of the Avenida de Mayo captioned, “Another South American Precedent,” and described as a “grouping of public buildings that most cities of North America are just beginning to think about.”

 

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Bennett, Edward H. and Andrew Wright Crawford. The Plan of Minneapolis. Minneapolis, 1917.

Freestone, Robert, ed. Urban Planning in a Changing World: The Twentieth Century Experience. London: E & FN Spon, 2000.

Jenkins, Eric. To Scale: One Hundred Urban Plans. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Oredson, Vincent. “Planning a City: Minneapolis, 1907-17.” Minnesota History 33, no. 8 (1953): 331-339.

 

WEB

Leyes de indias (Laws of the Indies), University of Seville, Spain. http://fama2.us.es/fde/ocr/2006/leyesDeIndiasT1.pdf

“Plaza 25 de Mayo, Buenos Aires.” Postcard, ca. 1900. Private collection