Carlos Thays

Jules Charles Thays, was the only child of the marriage of Simon Thays, a typographer of Belgian origin, and Ernestina Paris, from a merchant family in Versailles. He was born in Paris on August 20, 1849. He was orphaned at the age of seven and was baptized Jules Charles in the parish of Saint Germain des Près at ten. However, upon settling in Argentina he considered it necessary to change his first name to Carlos, because he thought that was how it should be written for correct pronunciation in Spanish.


He was a student and disciple of the landscape painter Edouard Francois André (1840-1911). Together with Alphonse Alphand (1817-1891) and Edouard André, he was responsible for the historic urban and landscape remodeling of Paris during the empire of Napoleon III.

In 1888 he was recommended by Adolphe Alphand to the Argentine Miguel Crisol to design and build a park in the city of Córdoba. That project, Crisol Park, called “Sarmiento” today, was his first public space designed in the country. His stay in Argentina became definitive in May 1891, when he won the competition for Director of Parks and Walks of the City of Buenos Aires, performing it with responsibility and knowledge until the end of 1913.


In Buenos Aires he met the very young Cora Venturino, whom he married in the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Piedad in 1892. He was 43 years old and she was 18. Despite the age difference, they were always a great love. . Cora usually accompanied her husband on her work, whether it was exploratory horseback riding through the Misiones jungle, or the construction of parks in the city of Buenos Aires. It was her custom to bring her two children, Carlos León and Ernestina, and a picnic basket to spend the days together. Perhaps these origins are due to the fact that the Thays family has been landscape gardeners for four generations. Carlos León (1894-1962) was, like his father, General Director of Paseos. His grandson, Carlos Julio Thays (1926-2017) worked in the private sector and was President of National Parks. His great-grandson, Carlos Thays (1959) is an agricultural engineer and has worked as a landscaper since 1978.


On September 7, 1898, Thays created the Botanical Garden in Buenos Aires, located at Av. Santa Fe 3951, in the Palermo neighborhood. This emblematic Garden was one of his main works in the country. In the center of it is the house where he lived with his family (1892-1898) and in recognition of his work there is a monument to his memory. In it you can see the flora of the Argentine provinces and several countries around the world. There Thays captured the three types of landscape design: Symmetrical, Mixed and Picturesque and with a typical "spirit" of the Belle Époque.

Between 1891 and 1895 the Directorate of Walks completed 22 new walks (up to that time there were 27). Among the main parks and squares that Thays created, expanded or remodeled as director, the following parks should be mentioned: Centenario, Lezama, Patricios, Los Andes, Ameghino, Colón, Chacabuco, Pereyra, Avellaneda, Intendente Alvear, Barrancas de Belgrano and the Constitución squares, Congress and May. He worked in the Olivera, Matheu, San Antonio squares - today Díaz Vélez - and the Chacabuco, Los Patricios and Los Andes parks.


He took advantage of the native forest so that it is due to him that many squares, parks and streets in Buenos Aires are tree-lined with species from the north and northeast of the country, such as lapachos, ceibos, palos drunkas, jacarandas, tipas and yuchanes, among others.


The Bosques de Palermo or Parque 3 de Febrero were one of the largest remodeling works undertaken by Thays, becoming, even today, the most characteristic and traditional green area in Buenos Aires. Among other contributions, he expanded the park by adding a lake area.


He also worked actively in the process that culminated in the creation of the Iguazú National Park, in the Province of Misiones. This park was planned prior to its definitive creation, which only took shape in 1934 with the creation of the National Parks Directorate. The architect and pioneer of this process was Thays, who carried out the first project to create and organize a National Park in the country. He carried out a survey on the places where bridges and walkways, as well as viewpoints, could be placed. The foundations for the creation of the park were the protection of the landscape framework of the Iguazú Falls, along with the exuberant Misiones, Paraná or subtropical jungle that surrounds them, with its characteristic animal and plant species.


In addition, he undertook work as an urban planner designing the Barrio Parque, in 1912, in Palermo Chico, in Buenos Aires; the Carrasco neighborhood, in Montevideo, project of the Luro Roca garden city (Partido de San Vicente, Province of Buenos Aires) and preliminary project of Pueblo Chovet, in Santa Fe.


Although Thays carried out his main activities in Buenos Aires, he undertook several civic projects in other cities and places in Argentina, such as: remodeling of Parque Sarmiento (1889) in the city of Córdoba, remodeling of Parque 20 de Febrero in the city of Salta ( 1900), creation of the 9 de Julio Park in San Miguel de Tucumán (1908), Independencia Park in Rosario, General San Martín Park in the city of Mendoza, Urquiza Park in the city of Paraná, Sarmiento Park in the city of Azul (Buenos Aires), the beautiful "Plaza 25 de Mayo" of the City of San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca, the Santa Ana Park in Tucumán; the Paseo General Paz and Boulevard Marítimo in Mar del Plata (disappeared in 1903 for the construction of the Casino and the Provincial Hotel), as well as the project of a city-amphitheater (the Winter Mansion) in the city of Empedrado in the Province of Currents.


His work articulated the urban fabric of the city, creating a system of boulevards and street groves that, together with green spaces, managed to generate a type of public space with recreational and walking functions. He contributed to the collective space by designing areas for children's games, gazebos for music bands, sports areas and bathrooms for public use.


Carlos Thays also carried out important urbanizations with landscaping in Uruguay, where the Artigas Bulevar, the Plaza Independencia of Montevideo, the Batlle Park, the José Enrique Rodó Park, the ornamentation of the Plaza de Cagancha, and the gardens of the Idiarte castle stand out. Rail.


Among the numerous private works in the province of Buenos Aires, those of the ranches stand out: Villa María, from the Pereda family, in the town of Máximo Paz; La Candelaria, owned by the Piñero family, in Lobos (with a French-style castle, it landscaped 100 hectares and introduced 240 species such as araucarias, palm trees, ombues, casuarinas and pines); Un Durazno, by Carlos Díaz Vélez, in Rauch; San Pablo, of the Egaña-Díaz Vélez, in Monte; Dos Talas, from Pedro Luro's family, in Dolores; La Porteña, of the GuerricoGüiraldes, in San Antonio de Areco (here he planted eucalyptus, cedars of Lebanon, oaks and an access avenue with a tree native to the Mediterranean, the hackberry), La Rica, of the López, in Chivilcoy and La Larga and La Argentina, both of former president Julio Argentino Roca, in Daireaux and San Andrés de Giles respectively. In addition, there are also the ranches: La Concepción, in Lobos; La Cautiva, in Coronel Vidal; La Benquerencia, in San Miguel del Monte; San Eliseo, in San Vicente; La Tradición, in Moreno, El Mirador, in Cañuelas and the chalet with a park for the Sansinena family in General Daniel Cerri.


In the interior of the country, Thays designed the parks of the establishments: La Paz, also owned by former president Julio Argentino Roca, in Ascochinga, Province of Córdoba and the gardens of the Ferreyra Palace (1913) in the city of Córdoba.


Furthermore, together with Perito Moreno and other prominent figures, he founded the Association of Argentine Boy Scouts on July 4, 1912.


Thays was a student of South American flora and carried out numerous scientific excursions that helped him learn about native Argentine species and acclimatize them in the Botanical Garden of Buenos Aires.


At the beginning of the 20th century, only wild yerba mate was harvested in Argentina. Faced with the need to import weed from Brazil and Paraguay to satisfy domestic consumption, Thays investigated seed germination methods. In 1895 he received the first yerba mate seeds that he managed to germinate. He thus began the planting and cultivation of the yerba mate plant throughout Mesopotamia, a fact that gave way to an important industry.


The Botanical Garden of Buenos Aires was the result of the research carried out by Thays on the forest characteristics of our country and from which he proposed projects for the formation of national parks, in order to preserve the most valuable areas of Argentina.


It was on February 22, 1892 that he submitted to the Municipal Administration, headed by Francisco Bollini, a project exposing the need to create a botanical garden of acclimatization for scientific, recreational and landscape objectives, advising to do so in the place it currently occupies. He inaugurated it on September 7, 1898. Over time Thays turned the Botanical Garden into a botanical research center of international relevance.


In addition to all his work as a landscape painter, Thays was a writer and journalist. Author of the first Argentine book on landscaping, dedicated to the Botanical Garden of Buenos Aires and published in 1910. In it he told the history of the Garden and made a scientific contribution by listing the botanical collections that he formed there.


In France he was editor of the Revue Horticole for ten years. This was one of the most important journalistic organs on gardening in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. He wrote a text called "Les fôrets naturelles de la République Argentine", written for the International Congress of Forests in Paris, in 1913, which describes the forests and beauties of Argentina, especially the Iguazú Falls and Lake Nahuel Huapi.


On January 31, 1934, at the age of 85, he died in Buenos Aires, leaving behind an enormous legacy that we can enjoy to this day. His best memory and gift are his works and the different colors and perfumes that we enjoy throughout the year springing from native trees and other species acclimatized by him: the lapacho in September, the ceibo in October, the jacaranda in November, the tipa in December, and the drunken stick for several months, among others.