Argentine Flats Bring Outdoor Perspective Inside

In 1949, Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges wrote a collection of short stories called “The Aleph,” which describes a singular point that simultaneously contains all other points in the universe, giving the viewer infinite perspective over all time and space.

It’s a rather grand concept on which to base a name for this modest nine-story block of mixed-use apartments in Buenos Aires, but “The Aleph Residences” is a title that will be instantly recognizable to anyone living in Argentina.

The Aleph Residences in Buenos Aires, Argentina, showing sliding wooden panels to control solar gain. Image via Faena Group.

The Aleph Residences in Buenos Aires, Argentina, showing sliding wooden panels to control solar gain. Image via Faena Group.

You may not see all points in the time-space continuum at this new Aleph tower, but you may see a blurring of the line between indoors and outdoors. Located in the formerly industrial Puerto Madero region of the Buenos Aires, the Aleph provides sweeping views of the wide Rio de la Plata, using passive solar design to emphasize the hidden beauty of a barrio that had fallen into disrepair.

A closeup view of the wooden louvers on the apartment balconies. Image by Nigel Young via Faena Group.

A closeup view of the wooden louvers on the apartment balconies. Image by Nigel Young via Faena Group.

The Aleph includes retail space on its ground floor, residential apartments above and a landscaped garden in the rear. Some of the units include double-height patios and balconies with split-level interiors that give each space an airy, natural feel. The vaulted concrete-mold ceilings and bronzed sliding windows aid the ventilation of the building, reducing the reliance on energy-hogging HVAC systems.

Each apartment includes full-length windows and vaulted concrete ceilings to aid in ventilation. Image by Nigel Young via Faena Group.

Each apartment includes full-length windows and vaulted concrete ceilings to aid in ventilation. Image by Nigel Young via Faena Group.

Each of the 50 apartments in the building is designed to maximize the amount of natural daylight penetrating the interior. With floor-to-ceiling windows to provide unbroken views of the riverfront, the balconies also include sliding sun-screen panels with shade-producing wooden louvers that can be slid closed or retracted depending on the sun angle. The ever-changing locations of the screened panels give the profile of the building a subtly different look from one day to the next.

The Aleph, the first design by British firm Foster + Partners to be completed in South America, is part of an overall strategy to turn the Puerto Madero section of Buenos Aires into a cultural destination. The area known as the Faena Arts and Technology District, which was opened by the Faena Group in 2011, includes new civic structures, an arts center, shops, hotels, green spaces and new riverfront development converted from old industrial structures, such as a brick flour mill and empty warehouses.

Randy Woods is a Seattle-based writer and editor with 20+ years of experience in the business publishing world. A former managing editor of Seattle Business, iSixSigma, Claims and Waste Age magazines, he has covered topics that include newspaper publishing, entrepreneurism, green businesses, insurance, environmental protection and garbage hauling (yes, really). He also contributes to the Career Center Blog for The Seattle Times and edits a photography magazine called PhotoMedia. When not working, he likes to hide out in Seattle movie theaters and attend film festivals—even on sunny days.