British influences
British neighbourhoods and a British clock tower in the centre of Buenos Aires.

They used to say that Buenos Aires was the Paris of South America, and that may well be, but the city also takes influences from elsewhere in Europe, and a distinct British presence can be felt in certain areas. The residential area known as Belgrano R boasts the impressive homes of the employees of the British railway company, which was also responsible for the construction of Retiro train station. There is also an area in the Caballito neighbourhood that is known as "el barrio inglés" (the English neighbourhood) - an oasis of European-style houses in the middle of one of the city's most densely populated areas.

An emblem of British style

The famous Torre de los Ingleses (English Tower) was renamed Torre Monumental as a result of the Malvinas War. It was donated to the city by British residents in 1910 to mark Argentina's centenary and is located near the port and the British-built Retiro railway station - the area where immigrants would arrive in the city.

The tower is 60 high and makes use of red bricks and white stone. The inscription in marble makes a reference to a line from Argentina's national anthem and reads, “The British residents, health to the great Argentine people, May 25 1910”. Decoration features British shields and symbols: the Scottish thistle, the rose of the House of Tudor, the Welsh dragon and Irish shamrock.  

Inside, a glass elevator goes up to the seventh floor, where there is a spectacular viewing platform. Higher still is the clock with its 100kg, four-metre pendulum and five bronze bells, including one that weighs 7000 kilos and a 3000-kilo carillon that marked every 15 minutes.       

Keeping it in the family

Contemporary to the tower is the building that now houses the British Embassy in the exclusive Recoleta neighbourhood - a building that contrasts with the French style of the surrounding area. The building was designed by the architects Smith and Collcut and is the only Edwardian building that survives in Argentina. It comprises four blocks because the original owners, the Madero-Unzué couple, intended it as a family residence where their three daughters would continue living after they married. It was acquired by the United Kingdom in 1945.

Bricks, arches and factories

Towards the end of the 19th century, when Argentina had become a key player on the world maket and a major supplier of raw materials, there was tense competition between British and US importers. In 1884, local company Agar Cross commissioned British architect Richard Norman Shaw to construct a building that still remains at around number 500 on Avenida Paseo Colón, characterised by the use of red bricks and Georgian details, with a succession of pillars with semicircular arches at the base.

Further south, in Barracas, the British-owned railway company Ferrocarril del Sud moved its workshops to Colonia Sola in 1889 and built a series of houses for the men who worked at the loading station. The four buildings have brick chimneys, tiled roofs and mock half-timbering. The rooms of what was known as “Sola Workmen´s Dwellings” had no baths nor showers; there were only communal wash areas.

Colonia Sola suffered the passing of time and is no longer in very good condition, but the British-style warehouse buildings on the docks of Puerto Madero went in the opposite direction, and were renovated in the 1990s to form restaurants in offices in what is now one of the city's most exclusive neighbourhoods