My previous post on Pablo Adarme reminded me that I never wrote about the work of Karina el Azem and her series Casitas Argentinas. Similar to Adarme, el Azem photographed houses in the greater Buenos Aires area and then made models of them. The models shown below were photographed by Virginia del Guidice.
del Giudice’s website has an interesting description of the project that places these houses in the context of Juan Peron’s presidency and the ascendancy of the working class in Argentina in the 1950s:
Peron took office in 1947 and with him started a cult of everything that was populist. The praise for the worker’s figure and the pride on belonging to the working-class, imposed the overalls as a genuine emblem in the neighborhoods that sprang up around the new factories. The so-called five-year plan and Evita’s generous hand, brought the working-class close to the realization of their biggest dream, a house of their own, a decent home: the Peronist house.
During the postwar period, the mix of born builders, Italian immigrants, the people who moved rom the provinces to Buenos Aires, and a total lack of legistlation regarding urban architecture, allowed for a spontaneous and simple housing pattern to be repeated. Years went by and in this formerly modest and plain house, the front cladding is now announcing the arrival of well-being. You are always somebody in your neighborhood and social and economical progress is better appreciated there; those who see their present improving are loyal to their neighborhood and settle in it forever.
The fake luxury, the untimely dream of the brick facade alpine chalet with deers on the roof and concrete drawfs in the garden, take us to a world of children’s fantasies. The love for shiny things, the different materials that change as fashion changes and disproportionate ornaments such as golden lions, refer us to an idealization not free of certain native tenderness.
The seventies, marked by military dictatorship, oddly coincide with this cladding boom. The question could be: Isn’t this cladding paradoxically linked to the need to conceal, to hide this “middle-working class past” that could identify them with Peronism?
The fact of blotting out the past and showing material success as well as the fear of being different, made out of some people’s boldness everybody’s style.