I have said before that you don’t really get to appreciate some aspects of your hometown until you move somewhere else. Or, at any rate, this is what happened to me with Buenos Aires. I see buildings with different eyes, like Retiro Railway Terminus, when I go to visit. I rediscovered its lovely architecture and design now that I’m not rushing about.
The Retiro terminus is located in one of the busiest districts in the city, the Retiro neighbourhood. It includes, among others, Peatonal Florida, a pedestrian thoroughfare lined with shops, hotels and office buildings. Many companies have their headquarters in the Retiro and Catalinas area as well. Estación Retiro is also a public transport hub where hundreds of buses converge. The volume of people coming and going on any given week day is astounding. And traffic can be a nightmare, what with so many buses, taxis and cars vying for space in the streets around the station. Not to mention the long-distance bus terminal, also called Retiro, which is right across the street from the railway station.
When I lived in Buenos Aires and worked in Microcentro, I got caught in the everyday hustle and bustle of the megalopolis and didn’t have time to appreciate the beauty of the city. A while ago, my husband and I were in the area and I decided we had to see Retiro Station instead of rushing through it.
First, we crossed the Plaza Fuerza Aérea Argentina, on the intersection of San Martin Street and Libertador Avenue. The monument in the middle of the plaza is the Torre Monumental, also known as Torre de los Ingleses (The Tower of the English people). It was given to the city by British residents to commemorate Argentina’s first centennial in 1910. It was officially unveiled in 1916.
We made it into the station. We only visited one of the buildings, from 1915, which serves as the terminus of the Mitre commuter rail services.
The façade with its tall windows, the ticket boxes and the Great Hall were designed in the Beaux-Arts style by British architects. I personally consider Estación Retiro a beautiful and stately building. The Great Hall is so elegant; it feels like stepping back into another era when ladies wore long skirts and gentlemen carried canes, gloves and hats. The past has that patina of grace and politesse that makes us forget these people had the same problems and worries we do now. The Industrial Revolution still echoes in here.
The rear body of Retiro Station was designed with a practical and functionalist view in iron and glass, the materials par excellence of the Industrial Revolution. This is where we find the platforms to the trains divided into two 250 meter long naves. A cathedral of public transport that smells like iron and dust, diesel and grease. The structure follows that of the grand stations of the 19th century. The metal structure was made in Liverpool, England, disassembled and then shipped and reassembled here.
Retiro Station was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.