For some an icon, for others an eyesore, the so-called “Elefante Blanco” (White Elephant) building in the Villa Lugano neighbourhood is finally coming down. Demolition works on the crumbling 14-storey structure officially began on Tuesday.
In its place, Buenos Aires City Hall plans to build the headquarters of its Human Development and Home Ministry.
The proposed new structure, chic and modern, will mark a significant change of scenery for residents. Aside from White Elephant, Villa Lugano is also home to the Villa 15 shantytown.
Demolition of the 62,600-square-metre building will conclude in November 2017, with construction on the new ministry ambitiously scheduled to end in March 2019, City Hall announced.
The ministry will occupy a space of 17,700 squared metres and will host 1,138 staff.
HOSPITAL THAT NEVER WAS
Built 80 years ago to contain a tuberculosis outbreak, White Elephant was originally designed to be “the biggest hospital in Latin America”.
The building is reminiscent of the big dreams of the country’s political elite in the 1930s and 1940s. But plans to develop it ceased in 1955 with the coup d’état against Juan Domingo Perón, and the building was left to decay.
City Hall took charge of White Elephant in 2011. At the time, over 90 homeless families were living inside it and another 180 in close proximity.