This thesis explores the works of Francisco Salamone, Argentine architect of Italian descent, who in a brief and prolific period in the 1930’s imposed his experimental style - blending Futurism, Art Deco and the functionality of reinforced concrete - on many of the small frontier towns scattered around the vast expanse of the Pampas. Salamone, contracted by Manuel Fresco, governor of the Buenos Aires province at the time, constructed more than 72 public works from 1936-40. Fresco, a firm advocate of ‘eugenics’, governed with a strong emphasis on military rule inspired by European fascist models and sought to create a new social order based on a prosperous Argentine economy. This thesis analyses how Salamone’s slaughterhouse architecture, constructed on an epic scale, were vehicles for a futuristic vision; these colossal edifices that fused function and artistic form, provided ultra-efficient slaughtering and processing of meat while projecting the image of a powerful and highly efficient State.
It addresses the following questions:
How do we position Salamone’s architecture in the context of Argentine history, colonization and economic imperatives? And in doing so, is it possible to demonstrate that his public work commissioned buildings do not exist in a creative and aesthetic ‘vacuum’; but were strongly influenced by political imperatives and Argentinian state ideology in the 1930’s?
What was Salamone’s approach to the architectural concept of form and function? How did he manage to both modernize the Argentinian meat processing industry by reinventing the slaughterhouse while also ensuring that his buildings, imposed on the barren horizontal landscape of the pampas, would symbolize an authoritative state ideology and reflect its desire to appropriate and control a strategic space?
In the context of a Romantic fascination with ruins and artefacts, how do we interpret Salamone’s work today? Witnessing the fact that Salamone’s slaughterhouses are for the most part abandoned and left to decay; what does his architecture and its link to a past utopian vision tell us about modern Argentina? Is Salamone’s work powerful and important enough to provide a nation with a reflection of itself?
Throughout Europe, Modernist architectural visionaries, artists and filmmakers with fascist sympathies - like Albert Speer, Le Corbusier, Marcello Piacentini - are still studied and revered for their creative genius. Most experts I have interviewed agree that Francisco Salamone is a key figure in Argentinian’s modern cultural heritage; yet nearly all of his archives, diaries, drawings etc. have been lost or destroyed. So what can still be discovered and unearthed about the man and his work?