Urban processes may take many years to transform a city. Actually, it’s possible to live many years in the same place thinking that its streets and walls have been there as natural determining factors of the landscape. However, as soon as we ask how the land increased in value and which decisions have favored the valorization of the different zones, history projects its shadow among the lines of distribution, intersections and buildings.
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Amadeo Azar’s exhibit at Centro Cultural Recoleta refers to the 13512 law of horizontal property and to the way it transformed the landscape of his native city, Mar del Plata. The law, sanctioned under Juan Domingo Perón’s government in October 1948 to encourage home ownership, opened the possibility for different flats in the same building to be purchased by different owners. This new opportunity radically changed the real estate market, regulated until then by legislation from 1869 establishing that each appartment block had to belong to one proprietor.
It was on August 4th 1948, in anticipation to the law, that Mar del Plata’s newspaper La Capital published the first advertisement for the sale of flats. Two days later, only 8 from the originally twenty-four units remained available.
“Buyers came mostly from Buenos Aires, Gran Buenos Aires and the provinces of Argentina and they bought an appartment in the seaside city to spend their holidays. During the period that extends from 1950 to 1970, over 50% of the current housing stock was built, demolishing 70% of the central old quarter. Cottages and villas, symbols of the aristocracy’s summer vacations, get demolished to give way to the construction of appartment blocks, destined to the summer housing of the Buenos Aires middle class. This is how Mar del Plata becomes the Argentine model of the modern city,” points out Talía Pilcic in her 2009 presentation. Politics favors the sale of the individual house to turn it into flats. In the case of Mar del Plata, most of them stay empty during the year, as they were bought only for summer tourism.
On the floor of a gallery hall in CCR, Amadeo Azar has installed a scale model of a cottage and three appartment blocks. Separating the two types of architecture, he’s placed four small squares, each with its respective streetlamps and trees made of wood and painted white. In the buildings, the rectangular holes represent windows and a few of them appear lit up from the inside. The cottage stands in front, isolated and unprotected. Behind it and in spite of their massive immobility, the buildings seem to threaten to move forward. In comparison, the windows look extremely small, their light reminiscent of closed shop windows. The theatrical lighting on the installation reflects off the green platform where the models stand, and spreads its green cast onto the white walls. The cottage stands directly on the floor and contrasts the green with a complementary tone of magenta.
Azar’s installation art turns us into aerial observers, who can perceive the shape of roofs and the openings for urban circulation. It presents the model of an improvised and delirious urban plan, as if two historical periods, two ways of understanding and constructing a city would superimpose and almost collide. His model doesn’t show disorder, but rather contrast, contradiction and speculation.
The small installation rises up from the grey concrete floor in the middle of the hall. Looking up and sideways, the observer finds, instead of answers, merely, the emptiness of the room.