28
Jul
2011

buenos aires: subway tiles

Buenos Aires, subte, subway, tiles, azulejos, Línea D, Estación Catedral

Several blogs exist which discuss current events related to the Buenos Aires subte (ongoing construction, union & concession problems, maintenance, etc.), but someone could easily dedicate an entire blog to the system’s tilework. A few years ago, I almost put together a guided tour of the subway just to showcase the variety, artistry, originality & modern interventions being taken underground in BA. This post is a taste of that, along with some personal favorites.

The A Line is great for Old World charm but not so much for tile murals. The B Line hides its original tiles—they’ve been cemented over—but new panels are popping up all the time. One piece of art at the Carlos Gardel station incorporates children’s themes with the famous tango singer, but it comes off as creepy:

Buenos Aires, subte, subway, tiles, azulejos, Línea B, Estación Carlos Gardel

My favorite B Line artwork is down in the grungy Uruguay station: a 1991 comic tile panel depicting the science fiction work El Eternauta. Wonderfully spooky:

Buenos Aires, subte, subway, tiles, azulejos, Línea B, Estación Uruguay

Buenos Aires, subte, subway, tiles, azulejos, Línea B, Estación Uruguay

Modern panels seem to pop up everywhere. Mafalda makes an appearance, multiple references to tango can be found, Quinquela Martín depicts La Boca & there’s even a reproduction of the gaucho-themed “El de laj once y sais” by Florencio Molina Campos. Definitely work seeking out.

Another modern fave can be found in a tunnel connecting the Lima station of the A Line to the Avenida de Mayo station of the C Line. Placed in 2002 just after the economic crash, Horacio Altuna reproduced some of his classic characters to walk along with commuters in a life-size mural & made some interesting social commentary:

Buenos Aires, subte, subway, tiles, azulejos, Línea A, Estación Lima

The C Line is a treat for me because I’m a confessed Iberophile. Construction of the line was financed in the 1930’s by a Spanish company who also imported tiles for its decoration. Murals depict different regions in Spain with their landmark buildings, & it’s fun to try to identify each before the train leaves the station. Copper & blue tiles with the text “There is no victor but Allah” in Independencia station obviously reference the Alhambra, but finding the Segovia aqueduct in the Avenida de Mayo station is almost like being there:

Buenos Aires, subte, subway, tiles, azulejos, Línea C, Estación Avenida de Mayo

So much great art can be found on the D Line (top photo, depicting subway construction & downtown skyscrapers), but for unknown reasons many of the original tiles have been covered in recent years. I remember entering the Facultad de Medicina station one day & immediately felt disoriented. After a few minutes I realized that the blue tiles had been hidden. Shame on Metrovías… their concession should be revoked:

Buenos Aires, subte, subway, tiles, azulejos, Línea D, Estación Facultad de Medicina

The D Line also has a bit of secret art. The tunnel which runs underneath Avenida Santa Fe at the Pueyrredón station contains three panels of 1930’s modern tiles by the Cattaneo company. They were responsible for much of the decoration of the line.

Stopping to study the panels, it becomes obvious that each row was reversed top to bottom on purpose. My mind could never quite put the whole image together, especially with everyone rushing by. But Photoshop comes to the rescue! Below is a full image of single panel as it appears in the tunnel, followed by a detail shot & the corrected version to show how the piece was originally designed. A few tiles are misplaced, most likely the result of having fallen off & no one having the original schematic. Way cool… someone should do the other two panels:

Buenos Aires, subte, subway, tiles, azulejos, Línea D, Estación Pueyrredón

Buenos Aires, subte, subway, tiles, azulejos, Línea D, Estación Pueyrredón

Buenos Aires, subte, subway, tiles, azulejos, Línea D, Estación Pueyrredón

Most visitors probably don’t take the E Line through the southern part of Buenos Aires. Too bad because it has some stunning work as well. The banana harvesters in Jujuy station are lovely:

Buenos Aires, subte, subway, tiles, azulejos, Línea E, Estación Jujuy

But my favorite of all scenes is in the General Urquiza station, depicting the arrival of Urquiza into Buenos Aires after the defeat of Rosas. All the victory celebration you’d ever need:

Buenos Aires, subte, subway, tiles, azulejos, Línea E, Estación General Urquiza

Buenos Aires, subte, subway, tiles, azulejos, Línea E, Estación General Urquiza

Buenos Aires, subte, subway, tiles, azulejos, Línea E, Estación General Urquiza

Hopefully this sampling of tilework in the BA subway will inspire someone to document it all, & help everyone stop to appreciate one of the best artistic bits of the city.

Comments ( 6 )
  • Jorgelina says:

    Wonderful post! Even makes the subte look pretty! :D

    • Robert says:

      Thanks, Jorgelina! The subte is looking pretty shabby these days. Another reason Metrovías should have their concession revoked. Saludos!

  • el señor F. says:

    Eso de tapar los azulejos para que no se noten las manchas de humedad (y de mugre) y ahorrarse la limpieza es un crimen. Metrovías es un desastre.

    • Robert says:

      No sé si entraste recién a la estación Pueyrredón de la línea D… es cada vez peor. Huele a mierda, está cayendo el techo, una de las escaleras mecánicas no funciona nunca, etc. Van a tener que invertir millones de dólares para arreglar todas las estaciones en algun momento, después de décadas de descuido. Es una vergüenza.

      La C está muy linda… lastima que haya tanta gente (salvo los domingos por la mañana) que no se puede apreciar muy bien la decoración.

  • el señor F. says:

    ps: Mi favorita es la C, por lejos.

  • el señor F. says:

    Paso muy seguido por pueyrrerón.. por las dos pueyrredones, son un desastre.

    Quiero creer que van a repararla antes de inauguren la extensión de la H.. pero son capaces de no hacerlo.

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