Following the international exhibition of decorative art in Paris in 1925, a new architectural style came into vogue all over the world. A familiarity with French architecture and Buenos Aires bourgeois origins were motors for this tendency that swept through the city and served as a repost to the fussy art nouveau style.
One of the main figures behind the proliferation of this style was the Hungarian architect Andrés Kalnay. He built the Jewish temple Beit Jabad towards the end of the 1920s and the cafe La Perla in 1930. The latter was a very popular place for locals visiting the city's main bathing area in what is now Puerto Madero.
In 1926, together with his brother George, Kalnay was commissioned to build a "palace of journalism" for the Crítica newspaper on one of the few remaining lots on Avenida de Mayo. The Hungarian brothers' interest in precolombian art manifest itself in illustrations from the Aztec calendar and stained glass windows with sun motifs. The office of the then director of the newspaper Natalio Botana is decorated with images of plants alluding to the “tree of journalism" and its fruits.
The Kavanagh building is generally considered to have a rationalist style, but could also be catalogued as art deco due to similarities between the two movements. Its style is characterised by simple, straight lines and octagonal structures of reinforced concrete. The style is also reflected in the obelisk, one of the key exponents of Argentine modernism, designed by the architect Alberto Prebisch. There is a tower with similar shape in the Parque Patricios neighbourhood, emerging from Club Huracán's football stadium, el Palacio Ducó, like a lighthouse at night and symbolic of the club's fans' pilgrimages to the stadium for matches on Sunday nights.
In 1925, Nicolás Mihanovich devised plans for what he wanted to be Buenos Aires' tallest building and the first thing immigrants would see when arriving at the port. In the end, he was only able to get permission to build up to 80 metres, but the Edificio Nicolás Mihanovich, which now houses the Sofitel hotel, is an outstanding piece of architecture all the same, with two towers and a lighthouse and viewing point.
The art deco wave reached Buenos Aires' theatre heartland, flourishing on the famous Avenida Corrientes. The most emblematic example is the Teatro Gran Rex, built by the already mentioned Prebisch in 1937. Notable in the construction is the continuity from the exterior to the interior and the foyer with its glass surface. The lack of decoration is characteristic of the theatres of this time and was reaction against the art nouveau style.
Just metres from here is the Teatro Ópera, overseen in its later stages by Alberto Bourdon, after the 1871 yellow fever epidemic halted initial work. The design took inspiration from the Cine Rex in París and this was the first theatre in Buenos Aires to have gaslight. Another theatre to look out for on Corrientes is the Teatro Metropolitan, inaugurated in 1936. This theatre is notable for the use of Botticino marble in the walls and stairs.
Elsewhere, on the street Hipólito Yrigoyen, the Teatro Empire, inaugurated in 1934, is another example. It has four floors and is crowned with a relief that reads "La Fraternidad” (the fraternity), the name of one of Argentina's first trade unions.