Being a city of a certain age, there are certain to be some relatively intriguing stories surrounding the history of some of the buildings in Buenos Aires. Here is my attempt to uncover and pay homage to a few of their past lives.
Episode 1: Palacio Alcorta (Museo Renault)
Av. Figueroa Alcorta 3351
This massive building was built in 1927 by Italian architect Mario Palanti for ‘Resta,’ an Argentine Chrysler dealership. It became known as the Chrysler building, and at the time was promoted as “el primer palacio autódromo” in Buenos Aires. The building was inaugurated on December 1st, 1928 and housed large exposition spaces, administrative offices, the auto shop, and a stock of automobiles: much of what you would expect from a foreign luxury car dealership in the first few decades after owning a car was even a possibility.
What made the “palace” totally striking was the giant racetrack that was constructed right in the middle of the building to test the cars. Dubbed the olympic stadium, it was an open air, circular, concave track that was 173 meters long and could hold 3,000 people in its stands. Unfortunately, it didn’t get much use because the incredible amount of noise it generated when functioning, seemed to disturb the neighbors.
The building changed hands when Chrysler left Argentina and was taken over by the National Army. The racetrack remained out of use until 1994, when the entire building was converted into lofts and most of the interior racetrack was filled in except for a large oval courtyard with a swimming pool for residents.
You can find a bit more about its history here. I can think of many arguments against the practicality of sticking a giant race car track in the middle of a building in Buenos Aires, but nothing can convince me that it wouldn’t be cool to still be able to speed around in circles in the Palacio Alcorta.