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OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 06-07-2019 19:03

Get out of your comfort zone: recharge your creative batteries

An unconventional architecture tour helps clear the mind of any preconceptions about the Caballito neighborhood and starts a total reboot of the way we perceive the city we live in.

Stress is a common syndrome these days. And for those of us who work in communication, it is particularly harmful as it can affect creativity. Most of us have devised ways of dealing with it. Sometimes by doing something as simple as going for a coffee with a friend, or doing some form of exercise such as running, working out or yoga. Or by meditating or just watching Netflix. To counteract excessive screen time and the stress that entails, handicrafts have also come back into fashion: knitting clubs, baking and embroidery are currently all on trend. 

In her classic The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron recommends painting, sculpture and dance to stimulate the creative process in writers. She says we must nourish ourselves to get results. But sometimes none of these usual activities suffice. We need to do something a little further outside our comfort zone. To stimulate our creative side we need to connect new synapses by doing something we have never done before. 

This can include taking up a new language, acting or stand up classes or any new hobby. But if we don’t have time to do that, just doing something a little different or challenging can also help the creative process. A colleague of mine took a one-day workshop on creativity and innovation playing with Rasti, Argentina’s answer to Lego. The opportunity to play all day was great fun and gave her a new perspective on how to work with groups. 

In a bit of a rut recently I decided to sign up for something different and went on an architectural walking tour of Caballito, an area of Buenos Aires not known for tourism, on a Saturday afternoon. I had signed up thinking we were going to see some houses in art nouveau and art deco style, for which Buenos Aires is famous. While we did see a few in those styles, with some truly fantastic examples by Virginio Colombo, what most impacted me was the tour’s focus on architectural aspects that I would never have noticed, had I been by myself.

The tour was led by Vanessa Bell, an architectural journalist who does tours of Buenos Aires for locals and foreign tourists. A self-confessed fan of Brutalist architecture, Vanessa pointed out the impressive Hospital Naval among other examples. But what really opened my mind was the lobbies of very unassuming blocks of flats built in the 60s and 70s. Many lobbies display quite stunning original murals, often multimedia and some in ceramics. These murals and original works of art were commissioned in most of the buildings of that period, thanks to an enlightened municipality that promoted art works in residential blocks of flats by granting tax breaks. The Caballito area is particularly rich in examples as it hasn’t really changed much since then. Whereas in other neighbourhoods, such as Belgrano and Recoleta, subsequent periods of gentrification have taken their toll, many parts of Caballito have remained unchanged since that period.  

In a group of some 15 people we explored a relatively small area of Caballito, going back and forth along side streets, looking for particular gems that our guide had unearthed on her extensive research and scouting. One of the members of the tour was a professional photographer, Pompi Gutnisky, who took the photos you can see in this article. We also looked at some of Buenos Aires’s famous by-the-hour hotels, which were truly authentic examples of the same period of architecture. They often had a pop motif and great logos.  One hotel by-the-hour is actually right beside a Colombo house, in, to quote Vanessa Bell, a classic Argentine juxtaposition. 

The tour ended with a well-deserved beer at the delightful bar Rio de Janeiro.  It was a great way of clearing the mind of any preconceptions about Caballito and starting a total reboot of the way we perceive the city we live in. 

To get out of your comfort zone and do something you don’t usually do, start to look around yourself on your daily commute. Even though it can be hazardous to look up from the pavements of Buenos Aires at the Belle Epoque and Art Nouveau domes and spires above us, I recommend it. But don’t forget to also peer into the lobbies of those unassuming residential blocks of flats that were built in the 60s and 70s too. You may see an artwork that will surprise and inspire you!

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Joanna Richardson

Joanna Richardson

Joanna Richardson is a clear communications consultant. A British native, Joanna is an Argentine citizen who has made her home in Buenos Aires. She is president of Plain Language International Association (PLAIN, plainlanguagenetwork.org).

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