One Square Meter

Artists rebuild forgotten wasteland of Buenos Aires

Layla Maghribi and John Defterios, CNNPublished 4th August 2015
(CNN) — During the early 19th century, Barracas was a commercial hub of Buenos Aires and a playpen of the city's elite.
But an epidemic of yellow fever drove out the wealthy families, and over the next century the suburb was starved of investment. Barracas deteriorated to the point that tourists are now discouraged from visiting alone.
City planners are now trying to revive the area, as part of a wider regeneration program in the capital of Argentina.
"(Barracas) has not been desirable for economic activity due to the negative impact of its surroundings," says Julian Alvarez Insua, director of planning for the Buenos Aires government. "But there is a lot of space."
The area's decline has lowered the cost of real estate to as little as $600 per square meter, less than 40% of the city average.
Among those snapping up bargains are communities of artists, for whom the large industrial spaces have provided the perfect canvas.
The name Barracas translates as 'warehouses,' and many of the area's abandoned facilities have been converted into studios.
Other artists have taken their work into the streets. Marino Santa Maria is a leading light of the movement who was transformed Pasaje Lanin into an outdoor gallery with spectacular murals.
"I wanted to put them on display on the street so they could interact with people like music does," says Maria. "It really represented the idea of a new Barracas -- art is its new identity."
If the good times are rolling bank into this forgotten corner of the city, they will arrive on a wave of color.
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