The former “Mercado de Abasto Supplier” looms imposingly on Avenida Corrientes 3247, between Agüero and Tomás Manuel de Anchorena streets, in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Balvanera, although it is popularly known as “Barrio del Abasto”, precisely because of the market. which gave its name to the area.
This stunning structure has a long history that forever defined the neighborhood's imprint. By the end of the 19th century, the City of Buenos Aires had significant growth due to the migratory flows that arrived from various countries, mostly from Europe. Due to the demographic increase and the demolition of the Mercado Modelo, located in front of Plaza Lorea, due to the opening of Avenida de Mayo, the Devoto brothers requested on August 16, 1888 the construction, on their land acquired in 1875, of a market of supply. The Municipality accepted the proposal on November 29, 1888 and submitted it to the Deliberative Council for it to be discussed. This was approved by the Council and sanctioned on January 8, 1889 an ordinance authorizing the construction of the “Central Supply Market”, on the land located on the streets of Corrientes, Gral. Lavalle, Anchorena and Laprida, whose area was made up of 25 thousand square meters. The Municipality also assigned the function of the market, allowing the wholesale sale of fruits, vegetables and other grocery items, but expressly prohibiting the sale of meat.
The former stall holders of the Mercado Modelo decided to join forces, and in 1889 they founded the “Sociedad Anónima Mercado de Abasto Provider” (SAMAP). This company bought the land and concession to build the Mercado de Abasto from the Devoto brothers, and when the transfer was approved in 1890 by Mayor Francisco Seeber, construction began. The Market was designed and built by “Pedro Vasena e Hijos”, a company founded in 1870, which carried out iron, steel and bronze casting, blacksmithing and boilermaking.
The first part of the market was inaugurated on April 1, 1893 and had an area of 1,300 m². Its location was strategic, since it was near the railroad and halfway between La Boca and Olivos, two areas that were producers of fruits and vegetables.
As the population, and therefore consumption, increased, it was necessary to build a corralón between Guardia Vieja, Lavalle, Gallo and Agüero streets for the storage of carts and horses. In 1928, an annex used for retail sales was inaugurated, which was built between Guardia Vieja, Lavalle, Gallo and Sánchez de Bustamante streets.
In the 1930s, in addition to the demand that advanced, so did new technologies, which posed a different objective to the tradition of the 19th century. Such as the new vehicular traffic, the rapid demand for loading and unloading, a greater amount of merchandise in warehouse, the needs for control and hygiene, which required enormous circulations of renewable air and the incorporation of cold rooms, among others. Issue that the market needed to modify and expand.
The new project was designed by the Slovenian architect Viktor Sulčič. If the old building was inspired by “Les Halles” in Paris, the new design of the large building carried out by Sulčič was a very original “art deco” with an air of “brutalism”, and was designed and directed by the Delpini-Sulcic studio. Bes, to which this architect belonged. The construction was carried out by the construction company Arienti y Maisterra, which would build several emblematic buildings in Buenos Aires.
Thus, the building began to express a modernization process that the city faced at that time through its reinforced concrete structure, its escalators, forklifts, and endless conveyors. Concrete along with iron and glass took the leading role, combining with classic and historicist styles.
The new remodeling project was organized into 4 large free floors, which were divided into 5 naves, of which the central one is the one that took the most prominence, rising in height above the rest and having a longer width. The central nave also stands out for being the center of the axis of symmetry of the entire building, in addition to being the main access to it, on Corrientes Avenue. The total area of the market was 58,000 square meters.
As for functions, the market had a clear organization that was divided into the four floors of the building. On the upper and lower floors were the wholesale and retail stores, while on the first and second basement were the areas for the sale of meat and its storage.
In addition to thinking the space as functional as possible, the architects sought to beautify the space with the most innovative of the moment, which was the ceiling, which was made by placing glass on the reinforced concrete coffered ceilings, thus forming vaults that allowed light to enter. uniformly throughout the space.
On December 28, 1931, the foundation stone that began the renovation was laid. On June 12, 1933, an underground link with line B of the subway (inaugurated in 1930) was inaugurated so that the loaded wagons of the Buenos Aires Central Railway could reach its underground. And on March 24, 1934, the complete work was inaugurated, with an area of 44,000 m², train access and underground parking.
The area was revitalized, integrating market activities with leisure (theater, card games, bocce ball) and the neighborhood's gastronomy.
In 1939 the function of the market was expanded, since the sale of meat and fish was allowed.
On November 27, 1952, a fire started in the basement that lasted several days. To protect the building, José Luis Delpini rebuilt the damaged parts and reinforced its structure. It was found that the tunnel that led to subway line B fueled the flames. Due to the “chimney effect”, the passage between the subway tracks and the basement of the building was closed with a masonry wall.
In 1955, the Mercado del Abasto was the setting for the film "Mercado de Abasto", starring Pepe Arias and Tita Merello.
But the Market began to experience its announced end. On September 9, 1971, the national government enacted a law to promote the establishment of wholesale markets for perishable products, establishing the creation of a "single Central Market" with the monopoly on wholesale marketing of essential food items for the Federal Capital and 25 matches from Greater Buenos Aires. Based on this, the Municipality promulgated ordinance 37282, which indicated that as of December 1, 1982, the seven wholesale markets that operated within the municipal jurisdiction, including the Mercado de Abasto Supplier, should cease their activities.
References and Photographs::
El edificio inaugurado en 1934 (Foto: AGNA, ca. 1945).
Caras y Caretas photographer - La fotografía en la Historia Argentina, Tomo II, p. 214 - ISBN 950-782-644-0
In 1984, the Central Market of Buenos Aires was already enabled, so on October 14 of that year, the Mercado de Abasto was closed and its operations were transferred to the complex located in the town of Tapiales, so the building was closed.
After its closure, the neighborhood lost part of the vitality that had been its own since the end of the last century. Several families were left without work, since a large part of the Abasto area revolved around the market. On the other hand, the spaces that remained empty after the closure of the market (houses, old warehouses) were progressively occupied by other popular sectors.
As the Mercado de Abasto closed six years before the expiration of the 100-year concession, the company managed to get the Municipality to change the regulations by which it could build residential towers and a supermarket on the surrounding land. Later, the SAMAP company sold all its assets to the El Hogar Obrero cooperative.
In 1985, the Deliberative Council declared the former market “Cultural Heritage of the City”, thus preventing its demolition.
In 1987 El Hogar Obrero began work to build a shopping center in the new building and a cultural center in the old one. At the end of 1989 this company entered into financial difficulties due to the hyperinflation of that year, so the work was paralyzed. This exacerbated the crisis in the neighborhood, which was left semi-abandoned after having been an important commercial point in the city. The problems worsened until SAMAP's shares were auctioned in 1993, but there were no buyers. After several negotiations, in 1995 the company “Inversiones y Representaciones Sociedad Anónima” (IRSA) purchased these shares. In 1996, the remodeling began, maintaining the traditional architectural richness of the building's façade with its arches and glazed vaults. It included the demolition of the Old Market (only the perimeter wall remained standing), the building that formerly housed the Mercado de Abasto was converted in 1998 into the “Abasto Shopping”, and became one of the most important shopping centers in city.
The shopping was designed by three architecture studios together: Manteola-Sánchez Gómez-Santos-Solsona-Salaberry (MSGSSS) (urban project), Benjamin Thompson Architects (BTA, from Cambridge, United States) and Pfeifer-Zurdo (interior designers ). More than 230 stores were designed spread over four floors, a food court on the top floor, an arcade room including a trip around the world and other mechanical games, two underground parking spaces, a 12-screen multiplex cinema (the Hoyts Abasto), the Children's Museum and the Plaza del Zorzal, a dry square covered with a glass roof. The connection with the “Carlos Gardel” station of Subway B was also rehabilitated, which allowed many people to easily access the shopping, even on rainy days.
In 1999, the “Carlos Gardel” pedestrian street and the first of the towers were inaugurated. The following year the hypermarket in front of the shopping complex opened to the public.
At the time, the demolition of the original interiors of the Mercado de Abasto generated controversy, since it was one of the first Buenos Aires buildings with escalators, but the entire original shell of both old buildings was maintained, and the interiors were completely emptied.
Currently, its structure remains intact and monumental, dazzling on Corrientes Avenue as an icon of the neighborhood that never sleeps, and that arouses the admiration of passersby.