Explore Buenos Aires Province
With the declaration of Buenos Aires as the federal capital in 1880, Buenos Aires Province – already by far the wealthiest and most powerful in the republic – was left without a centre of government. A year later, the province’s newly named governor, Dardo Rocha, proposed that a provincial capital be created 50km east of the federal capital. The new city’s layout, based on rationalist concepts and characterized by an absolutely regular numbered street plan sitting within a 5km square, was designed by the French architect Pedro Benoit. An international competition was held to choose designs for the most important public buildings, and the winning architects included Germans and Italians as well as Argentines, a mix of nationalities reflected in the city’s impressive civic architecture.
The country’s first entirely planned city, La Plata was officially founded on November 19, 1882. Electric streetlights were installed in 1884 – the first in Latin America. Unfortunately, much of La Plata’s carefully conceived architectural identity was lost during the twentieth century, as anonymous modern constructions replaced many of the city’s original buildings. On a brighter note, there have been some successful attempts to preserve what’s left – most notably the old train station, now the wonderful setting for the Pasaje Dardo Rocha arts centre – and the 1990s saw the final completion of the city’s grandiose Neo-Gothic cathedral, over a dentury after its foundation stone was laid.
La Plata was essentially conceived as an administrative centre, and one might argue that it shows: indeed, for many Argentines the city is little more than a place you visit to carry out the dreaded and complicated trámites, bureaucratic procedures in which Argentine public bodies seem to specialize. In terms of identity, the city suffers somewhat through its proximity to Buenos Aires, whose seemingly endless sprawl now laps at its outskirts, practically turning the city that was created as a counterbalance to the capital into its suburb. But it has a rich cultural life, partly because it is an important university town, with three major institutes that attract students from all over the country. La Plata’s chief attractions are its pleasant park, the Paseo del Bosque, and – even though it is struggling to live up to its self-proclaimed reputation as one of the world’s major natural history museums – the Museo de Ciencias Naturales. Note that several of the city’s museums and galleries are closed throughout January.Read More