SAH News

2015 Edilia and François-Auguste de Montêquin Junior Fellowship Report

by Ana María León | Dec 08, 2015
My dissertation studies the housing projects of Catalan architect Antonio Bonet in Buenos Aires as sites in which different discourses and realities intersect. Because of the transnational character of the research, my archives are widespread, including locations in Cambridge, New York, Barcelona, Paris, Vichy, Buenos Aires, Mar del Plata, and Montevideo. In Fall 2015, I was in the process of revising my manuscript. With the help of the de Montêquin Fellowship, I was able to make one more visit to Argentina in order to look at the photograph collection of the Archivo General de la Nación (the photograph collection of the Argentinian State General Archive, or AGN for its acronym in Spanish). 

The visit to the AGN allowed me to collect graphic documentation of the extensive demolitions started in Buenos Aires in 1936 in order to open up the space for the 9 de Julio Avenue, a construction project that lasted well until the 1990s and marked the development of the city through  most of the 20th century. It is a key part of my argument that this void in the texture of the city influenced much of the architectural production and discourse in and about Buenos Aires. I was also able to go through documentation of the multiple public meetings and rallies related to the presidency of Juan Perón. As the main sponsor of one of the projects covered in my research, Perón’s strategies in crowd behavior are an important part of my research. Finally, I was able to browse through the documentation of Peronist propaganda, including posters, air balloons, vehicles, and graffiti. In my research I argue the architecture plans produced for this regime participated in similar strategies of mass communication.

The AGN is an invaluable resource for any scholar doing research in Argentina, but searching through its card catalogues—cross-referenced with a folder system organized thematically and not chronologically—requires patience and care. My visit was focused on the careful review of these card catalogues, and therefore my time in Buenos Aires in this instance was mostly spent inside one room. I was also able to spend some time in other archives, including the National Library, the Sociedad Central de Arquitectos (Central Society of Architects, or SCA), and the Archive of Leftist Documentation, CeDInCI.

This visit completed the sources I needed in order to finish this project. I defended on Spring 2015, according to schedule, and received my PhD diploma on September 2015. I would not have been able to do this key research trip without the funding of the De Montêquin Fellowship.

Ana María León is a PhD candidate in the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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