Design Cities 2019: Buenos Aires, Argentina

A local collective wants to tap into the megacity’s underutilized and overlooked spaces.

triba art collective buenos aires
Painted on a span of the Riachuelo River wall in Buenos Aires, artist Paola Vega’s “Esplendor” was organized by the local Triba collective in 2016. Courtesy Triba

The Riachuelo, or Matanza, River holds an important place in Argentine culture. Tango was born in its portside neighborhood of La Boca, a landing place for Italian and Spanish immigrants who arrived in Argentina at the beginning of the 20th century. The “little river” is still affectionately cited in tango lyrics, though the area has become associated with poverty and crime in recent decades—making it a particularly intriguing location for Paola Vega’s 2016 installation “Esplendor” (“Splendor”), a large-scale painting on a span of the river wall.

Visible from boats, planes, and the riverfront promenade, the Monet-esque mural is a dreamy stylization of the water below. Completed with local art collective Triba, the piece epitomizes the goals of the organization. “We specialize in the reformation and enhancement of architecture,” says Karina Kreth, an architect and creative director who helms Triba. “We’re interested in the transformation of the city through the day-to-day.”

It’s fitting that Triba’s latest installation, Mariana Sissia’s “Ciclorama,” was exhibited in another of the neighborhood’s reclaimed landmarks: Usina del Arte, an old electrical power plant that reopened as a cultural center in 2011. Sissia describes the piece as a fluid visual experience. The circular installation appears to unspool, welcoming visitors to step inside. “It was an attempt to abstract the viewer from their own reality,” Sissia says, noting that many visitors have walked out of the exhibition “modified in their usual rhythm.”

A momentary escape without leaving the city, Kreth adds, is what the collective is aiming for: “Public art, and its inevitable connection with architecture, holds the possibility of enriching the everyday.”

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