Clorindo Testa is among the most renowned figures of modern architecture in Latin America. A pioneer of mid-20th century Brutalist architecture, he instilled his work with a dramatic, expressive quality that challenged the moralizing attitudes of functionalism. Born in Naples, Italy, Testa moved with his parents to Argentina shortly after he was born. He started college with the intention of studying naval engineering, but soon changed to architecture, graduating from the Universidad de Buenos Aires in 1948. Immediately afterward, he sojourned for two years in Rome, dedicating himself to painting, a practice that accompanied him throughout his life. While there, he won, along with his former university classmate Francisco Rossi, the architectural competition for the Cámara Argentina de la Construcción building, and returned to Buenos Aires.
In 1955, along with Rossi, David Gaido, and Boris Dabinovic, Testa won the competition for the government center of the newly created province of La Pampa, in the city of Santa Rosa, a project that brought him national recognition. This building complex, reminiscent of Le Corbusier’s capitol complex in Chandigarh, India (1952), marked Testa’s formal and spatial experimentation in exposed concrete as a signature of Brutalist architecture. In 1959, in association with the well-established architecture firm Estudio SEPRA (Sanchez Elia Peralta Ramos Agostini), Testa won the competition for the new headquarters of the Banco de Londres y América del Sud. Considered one of the masterpieces of Brutalist architecture in Latin America, the building brought him international recognition. Fully abandoning any formal references, Testa developed a sophisticated spatial organization that responded to the densely built area of the city with a central banking lobby that acts as an urban plaza. The banking hall is created through an innovative and expressive structural system, a series of interconnected perimeter columns that fan out at the top to support the upper stories of the building and create an open-plan grand hall. Three years after this groundbreaking design, in 1962, he was awarded the commission for the National Library of the Argentine Republic, along with Francisco Bullrich and Alicia Cazzaniga. Also in exposed concrete, this building exemplifies Testa’s urban sensibility and expressive use of form. These two projects firmly established him as the leading architect in Argentina. In the 1960s, Testa was heavily involved with the Buenos Aires art and cultural scene that coalesced around the Instituto Di Tella, and he was a founding member of the Centro de Arte y Comunicación (CAyC) [Art and Communication Center] in 1968. Throughout his life, he continued to exhibit his paintings and sculptures, and his architecture was always informed by his artistic activities.
Introduction by Patricio del Real, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design, 2016
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