The most striking aspect of the vast Argentine plains known as the pampas
was best described by Charles Darwin in his journal of the 1833 voyage of
For many leagues north and south...the country is really level. Scarcely
anything which travelers have written about its extreme flatness can be considered
as exaggeration.... At sea, a personís eye being six feet above the surface
of the water, his horizon is two miles and four-fifths distant. In like manner,
the more level the plain, the more nearly does the horizon approach within
these narrow limits; and this, in my opinion, entirely destroys that grandeur
which one would have imagined that a vast level plain would have possessed.
Near-perfect horizontality stretching for miles in all directions is arguably
this landscapeís most compelling attribute, as well as its most stringent
constraint: When designing a project enclosed by the Argentine pampas, a landscape
architect has to find balance between overarching vastness and human-scaled
space; between the far-off horizon and the immediate and tangible elements
of design; and between the intriguing monotony of the plants, topography,
and colors and a more inviting layout that incorporates varied colors, shapes,
seasonal changes, and other design elements.
This is what two Buenos Aires landscape architects, Ines Stewart and Cecilia
Murray, had to achieve when working on the landscapes of two different estancias
on the pampas. Estancias, multiroom houses with large loggias that
face out onto extensive agricultural fields, were built by the first families
that lived outside the city. During the second half of the eighteenth century
and the beginning of the nineteenth, the first residents of Buenos Aires were
still threatened by attacks from local aborigines, prompting them to build
small forts near rivers for strategic defense. It was around these sites that
the estancias were erected so the families could band with nearby settlements.
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