Buenos Aires’ famous Obelisk, the tallest icon of the capital and responsible for the postcard picture captured by practically every tourist, is in the process of having its four faces restored and renovated.
It is hoped that the work will be completed in the first half of May, depending on weather and the evolution of the coronavirus pandemic. With luck, City Hall officials are hoping the reconditioning of the façades, restoration work and enhancement of the monument’s surroundings will be finished in time to mark its 85th birthday later this month.
The last comprehensive restoration work at the site was carried out in 2016, when the Obelisk underwent a hydro-washing process on all four sides in celebration of the 80th anniversary of its construction. Although the idea was to embark on further restoration work last year, the conditions imposed by the different phases of the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the work on the monument, which was designed by architect Raúl Prebisch and inaugurated in 1936, marking the fourth centenary of the first founding of Buenos Aires.
The deterioration of the famous monument has become increasingly more obvious as the years have passed. On all four sides, lichen and algae have sprouted up, both in the grooves that form the concrete blocks and on a large part of the base, a traditional meeting point for sporting demonstrations and celebrations.
On different parts of its structure, there are also traces of humidity, which have damaged the plaster, creating stains and in some cases removing paint. The fence that protects the monument, originally installed to avoid damage to its structure, is also showing visible signs of deterioration and lack of maintenance.
According to the Buenos Aires City government’s Public Space and Urban Hygiene Ministry, the restoration work has been split into two parts: work on the façade of the Obelisk and work on the area surrounding it.
In the case of the façades, a high-pressure water-washing job was carried out over the entire structure. Painting subsequently began on April 21, initially with a first coat of anti-graffiti paint, a material that protects the surface from future stains, is easy to wash and is resistant to changes in weather. After seven days of drying, a second coat of acrylic latex is due to be added, followed by a third coat of lacquer to protect the monument’s markings and lettering.
According to City Hall, the work is being carried out by the Chamber of Painters and Related Restoration Entrepreneurs of the Argentine Republic (Ceprara), under the supervision of Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta's administration.
"It is important to recover the splendour of one of the great symbols of the City that turns 85 in May," said Clara Muzzio, head of the Public Space Ministry.