As a major metropolitan area with such a rich & undeniably unique architectural heritage, much remains to be discovered in Buenos Aires. The city hides plenty of secrets. Less-transited areas often have beautiful buildings designed by formerly popular architects… who have now fallen into oblivion. Plans disappear, some works are demolished, and no one even records when they were born or when they died.
Such is the case of Estanislao Pirovano. Biographical info is slim & until now, the only known details about his life were published in 2010 by architect Florencia Barcina. Estanislao’s grandfather, Aquiles Pirovano Litenchof, came to Argentina from Milan sometime in the mid-1800’s. One of his sons became a recognized surgeon, namesake of the Hospital Pirovano in Coghlan. Another son became a civil engineer, married Carlota Naón Capanegra & had 8 children. The 7th child was Estanislao. He & his older brother, José Manuel, decided to study architecture.
Argentine architects at the beginning of the 20th century typically spent time abroad since European ties remained tight. But Pirovano began his education at the Escuela Industrial de la Nación, now known as the Escuela Técnica Otto Krause. Most biographies omit this formative time in Buenos Aires. Leaving during his 4th year, Pirovano went to study at the influential Glasgow School of Art —home of Charles Rennie Mackintosh & directed by Eugène Bourdon (from the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris). Entering in Sept 1910 under the category of Draughtsman, he received many credits for previous coursework in Buenos Aires. In fact, he only took 3 classes!
As luck would have it, Pirovano’s academic record is still on file at the Glasgow School of Art. Before taking a recent trip to Scotland, I contacted the school to see if they had any info on this mysterious architect. They did! Thanks to Susannah Waters, I have a copy of his transcript & a prospectus of that year… it describes all the coursework Pirovano took & the classes he was exempted from. I’m thrilled to find a missing piece of the puzzle!
After one year in Glasgow, Pirovano transferred to the École Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris. I find this strange, given that this school was the main rival of Bourdon’s school. Was Pirovano unhappy in Glasgow? Did he have any interaction with Mackintosh? Did he not like Art Nouveau (the prevailing trend during his studies & especially in Glasgow at the time)? Why did he leave so abruptly? Why did he not go to the more exclusive, more established École des Beaux-Arts?
More detective work needs to be done. At least I have a very good friend in Paris who has promised to contact the ESA to find more info. In 1914, Pirovano finished his degree & returned to Buenos Aires the following year. He did every kind of revival style imaginable: Tudor, Elizabethan, Jacobean, Georgian, Neocolonial, & more. Quite a range for the time & Pirovano often combined these styles in fascinating ways. Read on & check out what’s left of his works in Buenos Aires…
Update (12 Nov 2012): I must be the luckiest guy on the planet. Last night a group of friends & I began La Noche de los Museos 2012 at the Club de Pescadores. Looking forward to seeing the building & walking the 500-meter pier into the Río de la Plata, I knew the night would be special.
But walking in & thumbing randomly through some of the old member applications, I never expected to hit the jackpot. Out of over 100 applications, the second one I turn to is that of Estanislao Pirovano. Unbelievable! Finally after all this time, we know what he looked like at the age of 50 + his residence in Buenos Aires at the time. Absolutely thrilled.
Update (10 Dec 2012): The plot thickens… the University of Glasgow has registration info available about some of their more famous students. Estanislao’s brother, José Manuel, enrolled in 1907 to study science & engineering for five years. Since Estanislao enrolled in the Glasgow School of Art in 1910, he must have gone to Scotland in order to be with his brother. They even shared the same address: 12 Rocha Terrace.
An additional find: José Manuel lists his home address in Buenos Aires as Chacabuco 489… unfortunately a parking lot today, at least we know the Pirovano family had a house in Monserrat in the heart of downtown!
[Originally published as a series of 13 posts from 25 Dec 2007 to 11 Jun 2008. I’ve edited text, made photo collages & compiled everything into a condensed series of only 6 posts. There’s even exclusive, new info!]