The neoclassical style began as a retort to the French baroque, returning to the classical architecture of Greek temples with columns, arches, triangular frontispieces and planes that highlight the hierarchies of space. Examples can be found all over Buenos Aires.
The front of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Plaza de Mayo is one of the most notable examples. Following the demolition of the previous building, for 26 years the cathedral had only a facade and no interior. The new building, designed by Antonio Masella, was inaugurated in 1791 and the current portico with its Ionic columns, designed by Próspero Catelin, was added 30 years later. The well-preserved frontispiece depicts the reunion of the patriarch Jacob with his son Joseph.
One of the places that generates most curiosity amoung visitors in Buenos Aires is the incredible Recoleta Cemetery in the middle of one of the city's most elegant neighbourhoods. It was first inaugurated in 1822, but in 1881 the then mayor of the city Torcuato de Alvear commissioned the architect Juan Antonio Buschiazzo to renovate the site, leading to the creation of the current neoclassical portico with its double row of Doric coloums, flanked by a pilaster. Above the entrance a legend reads, “Requiescant in Pace” (Rest in peace) and on the marble floor you can see inscribed the dates of inauguration and the renovation.
Much more modern, but just as más moderna, pero también striking is the Universidad de Buenos Aires faculty of law, close to the cemetery. Construction began in 1942 under the architects Arturo Ochoa, Ismael Chiaporri and Mario Vinent, who had been asked to create a monumental classical facade. The finished building covers 40,000m2 and boasts 14 Doric columns and a main auditorium with capacity for 1,200 people.
The engineering faculty in the neighbourhood of San Telmo, has a very similar style with four fewer columns. This faculty was originally intended as the headquarters of the Fundación Eva Perón, demonstating the monumental presence of the state, and although its final use was changed after Eva Peron's death, it's possible to observe ten Peronist statues in the building.
Also in the 1940s, the Academia Nacional de Medicina was built in Avenida Las Heras. It has fewer columns and in contrast with the other university buildings mentioned is surrounded by buildings. Its triangular frontispiece shows the national shield alongside various other symbols. Two lateral cornucopias depict the wealth of knowledge gained through science, while there is also mention of medicine as a humanitarian act, a representation of old age, and images of a skull representing the study of natural science and an orangutan representing the battle between emotion and reason.
Another educational institution with a neoclassical style is the school Presidente Julio A. Roca. It was born as part of a plan for school buildings begun in 1899. The architect was Carlos Morra, who also designed the former national library building. Neoclassical elements can be found even in the small details, for example the railings and the columns' metopes. There are six scultptures and two inscriptions in Latin that summarise the school's ethos: “Liber, liberat” (the book liberates) and “Spiritus litteram vivificat” (the spirit brings the word to life).