Waterfront Redevelopment and the Puerto Madero

Project in Buenos Aires, Argentina


David J. Keeling

Department of Geography and Geology

Western Kentucky University

Bowling Green, KY 42101-3576


Tel: 1-270-745-4555

Fax: 1-270-745-6410

Email: david.keeling@wku.edu




          Landscape changes in the world’s major cities can be indicative of participation in and engagement with the forces of globalization.  Although such changes are of great interest to geographers, who read and analyze urban landscapes to interpret influences, meaning, social implications, and identity, they are also very significant for others.  Perceptions and impressions of a city formed or created by business people, city boosters, tourists, residents, and governments often are derived from the built landscape; transport infrastructure, innovative buildings, open spaces, cultural facilities, and physical attributes all contribute to how we “see” a city.  Competition among cities to attract international investment is fierce, and governments are learning that innovation and creativity in infrastructural development are critical to gaining world-city status and thus a share of the global economic potential.

                Buenos Aires, Argentina, is an excellent exemplar of urban landscape change in Latin America driven by conditions of globalization.  This paper examines the Puerto Madero redevelopment project as indicative of the city's landscape restructuring policies.  Through a detailed landscape and policy analysis, the strategies and implications of the project are discussed and the role of globalization in driving the project is critiqued.   The paper concludes with an analysis of the project's weaknesses and the broader implications for landscape restructuring in this and other cities around the world.



          Los cambios del paisaje en las ciudades principales del mundo pueden ser indicativos de la participación en y del contrato con las fuerzas de la globalización. Aunque tales cambios están de gran interés a los geógrafos, que leen y analizan paisajes urbanos para interpretar las influencias, los sentidos, las implicaciones sociales, y la identidad, son también muy significativas para otras.  Las opiniones y las impresiones de una ciudad formada o creada por la gente del negocio, los promotores de la ciudad, los turistas, los residentes, y los gobiernos se derivan a menudo del paisaje construido;  la infraestructura de transporte, los edificios innovadores, los espacios abiertos, los recursos culturales, y los atributos todos contribuyen a cómo "vemos" una ciudad.  La competición entre ciudades de atraer la inversión internacional es feroz, y los gobiernos están aprendiendo que la innovación y la creatividad en el desarrollo infraestructural son críticas a ganar estatus de la ciudad mundial y así una parte de la empanada financiera global. 

Buenos Aires, la Argentina, es un ejemplo excelente del cambio urbano del paisaje en América Latina conducida por las condiciones de la globalización.  Esta ponencia examina el proyecto de Puerto Madero como indicar de las políticas de la reestructuración del paisaje de la ciudad. Con un análisis detallado del paisaje y de política, las estrategias y las implicaciones del proyecto se discuten y el papel de la globalización en conducir el proyecto es criticado.  La ponencia concluye con un análisis de las debilidades del proyecto y de las implicaciones más amplias para el paisaje que reestructura en esto y otras ciudades alrededor del mundo.



Waterfront Redevelopment and the Puerto Madero

Project in Buenos Aires, Argentina



Waterfront redevelopment has emerged in recent decades as a central element in the revitalization of urban areas.  Settlements with any kind of water frontage, whether it is on a river, canal, lake, estuary, or ocean, are exploring ways to take advantage of the environmental and aesthetic appeal of waterfront activities within the broader context of urban renewal. The impetus for waterfront redevelopment is embedded in the political, economic, social, and environmental forces that are encouraging city governments to rethink the functionality and purpose of the urban landscape. In addition, significant landscape changes are occurring as cities participate in, and engage with, the processes of economic globalization.

Although such changes are of great interest to geographers, who read and analyze urban landscapes to interpret influences, meaning, social implications, and identity, they are also very significant for others.  Perceptions and impressions of a city formed or created by businesspeople, city boosters, tourists, residents, and govern-ments often are derived from the built landscape. Transport infrastructure, innovative buildings, open spaces, cultural facilities, and physical attributes all contribute to how we “see” and "experience" an urban environment.  Competition among cities to attract international investment is fierce, and governments are learning that innovation and creativity in infrastructural development are critical to gaining world-city status and thus a share of the global economic potential.

            Buenos Aires, Argentina, is an excellent exemplar of urban landscape change in Latin America driven by conditions of globalization. With the emergence of globalization both as an ideology and as a process in Argentina beginning in the late 1980s, attention began to turn towards more integrative urban planning and to development strategies designed to attract international capital and capitalists.  The problem of addressing the city's run-down port area, known as Puerto Madero, entered the local urban revitalization debate and emerged as a viable rehabilitation project. This essay examines the Puerto Madero redevelopment project as indicative of the city's landscape restructuring policies. Through an analysis of the landscape and of the policies directed toward urban renewal, the strategies and implications of the project are discussed and the role of globalization in driving the project is critiqued.  The essay concludes with an analysis of the project's strengths and weaknesses and of the broader implications for landscape restructuring in this and other cities around the world.


Globalization and Urban Landscape Change

From a theoretical perspective, globalization can be interpreted as the intersection of the spaces of production (fordist or modernist functions), consumption (postmodernist functions), and manipulation (global command and control functions).  New urban infrastructure is created at the intersection of these three spaces, and waterfront redevelopment is just one manifestation of this process.  Infrastructure is the visible expression of global and national capital "touching down" on the local landscape to help create the conditions that restructure the spaces of production, consumption, and manipulation.  It is hypothesized that the nature of a city's integration with the global economy is highly correlated with the degree of infrastructural investment and development. Measuring such things as the strength of engagement with the global economy, relative command and control power, the degree of spatial influence, or the significance of new infrastructure, for example, can provide important empirical evidence about the processes of globalization and world-city development (Taylor et al. 2001). 

Cities that aspire to "global" status or that desire to participate more profitably in the globalization process view new infrastructure as critical.  Integrated transport services, quality educational facilities, cultural iconography, visually stunning buildings, public spaces, and rehabilitated waterfronts, et cetera, all are elements of the urban cultural landscape that reflect the strength of a city's global engagement.  Moreover, infrastructure makes a visual statement about a city -- it can be a powerful tool in creating and promoting an image of "globalization."  For example, Sydney's international exposure through hosting the 2000 Olympic Games derived in part from new infrastructure built for the event, as well as from the existing cultural landscapes (Opera House and Harbor Bridge) that stand out as symbolic of Sydney's status as a "world city."  Other cities such as Seoul, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, London, San Francisco, São Paulo, and Buenos Aires have constructed buildings and facilities that provide powerful visual evidence of engagement with globalization; for example, the Docklands Light Railway, Petronas Towers, Oriental Pearl Tower, the Tsing Ma Bridge, et cetera (Cybriwsky 1998; Ford 1998; Foster 1999; Keeling 1999; Kim and Choe 1997).

Changes in infrastructure, global trade linkages, urban land-use practices, and planning policies all influence urban design, functionality, and aesthetic appeal.  From an analytical perspective, two broad frameworks for understanding urban landscape changes have developed since the 1980s (Fainstein 1996, Keeling 1999). At the global level, urban environments are situated along a continuum of regional, national, and international systems and researchers have analyzed such themes as uneven development, social polarization, and competitive economic advantage within these systems. Soja’s (1997) discourse on the contemporary city, or postmetropolis, for instance, proposed the concept of “cosmopolis” to encompass the globalization of urban capital, labor, and culture and the formation of a restructured hierarchy of global cities.  The urban impacts of globalization are varied, complex, and have stimulated a "shift in the attitudes of urban governments from a managerial approach to entrepreneurialism" (Habitat 2001:26). The role played by global cities as key economic command and control centers within the contemporary world-system has encouraged much exciting research under the umbrella of world-city theory (Friedmann 1986; Hall 1966; Knox and Taylor 1995).  For example, examinations of Latin American cities such as Buenos Aires (Keeling 1996, Torres 2001), Mexico City (Pick and Butler 1997; Ward 1998), and Havana (Segre et al. 1997) have drawn explicitly and implicitly on the world city concept to explicate the relationship between local urban change and global macroeconomic forces.

Research on urban restructuring at the local scale explores the processes shaping the essential character of a city from “the inside out” (Fainstein1996:170).  Local actors, institutions, community structures, labor divisions, levels of accessibility, cultural iconography, and economic activities all drive urban restructuring in specific and mutually reinforcing ways. The aim of this “view from below” theoretically is to mesh the macro-level structuring of the city with, in Soja's (1997:21) words, the “micro-worlds of everyday life” in order to understand more clearly spatial changes in the urban fabric. Ford's (1998) analysis of world cities, for example, highlights the dynamism and modernity of so-called "midtowns" and "megastructures" and the role they play in the global identity of a city. At the other end of the urban spectrum, Jakle and Wilson (1992) have explored the problem of derelict landscapes in cities and the social and economic problems they generate. Hoyle (2000:413) has examined specifically the changing nature of ports and waterfronts, focusing specific attention on the intertwining of "universal processes [...] [with] individual locations and environments" (Figure 1). The characteristics of this interface include external or universal processes that both shape and are shaped by the environmental, political, technological, economic, and legislative forces that mediate port-city interaction. 

In cities as diverse as Liverpool and Marseilles, London and Sydney, or Baltimore and Buenos Aires, waterfronts are emerging as new centers of social and economic activity (Breen and Rigby 1996).  Once run-down and derelict urban land-scapes are being reborn as attractive areas hosting retail and sporting facilities, as well as offices, hotels, educational centers, and other specialty services.  Throughout the 20th century, and particularly in the post-World War Two period (1950s to 1970s), the restructuring of the shipping industry (containerization) accelerated the demise or deterioration of once-thriving waterfronts.  Port cities especially faced the reality of abandoned warehouses, unproductive real estate often in prime locations, decaying industrial landscapes, and unattractive and badly polluted physical environments. Since the 1980s, however, changes in maritime technologies and a renewed focus on urban renewal strategies stimulated, in part, by globalization ideologies and processes have encouraged waterfront revitalization projects. These projects have generated a significant body of literature in the disciplines of urban planning, politics, environmental management, cultural ecology, and geography (Hall 1993, Hoyle 2000). 

As Hoyle (2000:415) posited, the potential of waterfront redevelopment depends on three things: "First, integration of past and present; second, integration of contrasting aims and objectives; and third, integration of communities and localities involved."  This approach to understanding the characteristics and implications of waterfront revitalization can be applied to the Puerto Madero project in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Between the 1920s and 1980s a wide swath of the city's river frontage deteriorated progressively, to the point where several hectares between the central city and the Río de la Plata formerly occupied by the Madero port operations had become an eyesore, frequented by urban squatters and transients and in serious decay.  As the government of Argentina began to embrace the ideologies of globalization at the end of the 1980s, it focused renewed attention on both the role and the image of Buenos Aires in the global system (Keeling 1996).  Puerto Madero particularly stood out as a symbol of failed urban renewal policies and as a symptom of much that was wrong with the city's development ambitions. In November 1989, presidential decree 1279/89 created the "Former Puerto Madero Corporation" and charged it with developing a Master Plan for Urban Development to revitalize the 170-hectare site.  As Carlos Corach (1999:13), former Minister of the Interior, observed, the Puerto Madero project is "much more than real-estate development; it is the new plan that defines the future city.  It is the road to follow to achieve a destiny of progress and it is the new configuration of urban space that emphasizes the public good."


Historical Puerto Madero

            Internal political struggles between Buenos Aires and the rest of Argentina following independence in 1816 stymied the construction of a major port in the city.  Not until the political compromise of 1880, when the city of Buenos Aires became the +federal capital of Argentina, did work commence on a modern port facility located in front of the city along the Rio de la Plata shoreline (Scobie 1971).   In 1881, engineers Eduardo Madero and John Hawkshaw proposed the construction of two major channels, one to the south and the other to the north of the main river channel, with two docks at the entrance of each channel.  A series of parallel interconnected quays would be located directly south of the Plaza de Mayo (the city center) and would allow for significant expansion to the north of the central city (Figure 2). 

Construction began in 1887, with the port opening formally on January 28, 1889, and the four parallel quays were inaugurated between 1890 and 1897. The development of Puerto Madero ended three decades of political conflict, competing interests, and unfulfilled potential for the city, allowing for significant expansion in shipping operations. However, technical and operational problems with the port became evident almost immediately, highlighting the lack of long-term planning and a complete misunderstanding of the spatial dynamics of port operations.  The facilities were totally inadequate for loading and unloading, access and egress proved complicated, the channels could not accommodate the rapid growth in vessel size, and the warehouses were unsuitable for the types of goods being shipped.  In 1919, construction on a new port began to the north of Puerto Madero, and by 1925 the Madero facilities had fallen idle (D'Angelo 1963). 

Various rehabilitation projects were proposed over the next sixty years, starting with the Organic Plan for Municipal Urbanization formulated between 1923 and 1935 and culminating in 1985 with a study of the area by the School of Architecture at the University of Buenos Aires in partnership with the Secretary of State and Transport.  The eminent French urban planner Le Corbusier (1947) recommended after a 1929 visit to Buenos Aires that only strong and enforceable land-use and development laws could rescue Puerto Madero from decay.  His plan called for the restoration of the riverfront as a symbol of the city's future and for the construction of an artificial island -- the Cité des Affairs -- with five skyscrapers.  Unfortunately, political crises, administrative jealousies, and the lack of a metropolitan development strategy stymied any attempt at rehabilitating the port area.   As a consequence of this inaction, the administrative and commercial functions of the city spread northwards away from the Plaza de Mayo-Puerto Madero axis and the historic central-city neighborhoods of San Telmo, Monserrat, Barracas, and La Boca also fell into decline.  Buenos Aires had become a city with its back to the river.


Contemporary Puerto Madero

Changing national and international political and economic circumstances in the late 1980s encouraged a re-evaluation of the role of both Buenos Aires and Argentina in the global economy.  With the election in 1989 of President Carlos Menem, a dramatic shift occurred in Argentina's planning and development ideologies.  Menem abandoned the traditional ideologies of the Peronist political party (dirigismo or significant state intervention in the economy and society) and turned the country toward neoliberalism and globalization.  Over the next few years, so-called "structural adjustment" programs opened up the national economy to global competition, privatized nearly all public services, liberalized the financial and capital markets, and pegged the national currency to the U.S. dollar on a one-for-one basis. Menem declared that Argentina now belonged to a "single world ... a new juridical, political, social, and economic order" (Gills and Rocamora 1992:515).  Moreover, he argued that Buenos Aires, the national capital and center of Argentine life, should play a central role in the country's globalization strategies as a world city, an international gateway, and a key economic center in South America. 

As this new ideology began to pervade the political and business arenas, both the mayor of Buenos Aires and the president of the city's Urban Planning Council saw an opportunity to revive the Puerto Madero redevelopment project. They realized, however, that significant private investment, both local and international, would be needed if the project were to have any chance of success.  After intense negotiations between city and federal government officials, the Corporación Antiguo Puerto Madero was created in November 1989 and a redevelopment master plan was formulated in cooperation with the Municipality of Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona had recently completed a significant restoration of its own port environment and experts from that project provided the Buenos Aires management team with ideas and strategies for the Puerto Madero rehabilitation.  The resulting master plan called for the construction of three million square meters of covered space on 170 hectares of land, with a total investment of 1.5 billion dollars.

With the creation of a public-private partnership system designed to represent the many competing political and economic interests, the next step involved untangling the multiple jurisdictions that controlled property in Puerto Madero and creating a mechanism to finance the redevelopment.  Several provincial, federal, and municipal agencies, as well as private corporations doing business in the area, used the docks, old warehouses, and mills, as did hundreds of illegal squatters. To solve the jurisdictional and financial problems, the federal government transferred ownership of the land and the existing infrastructure to the newly established corporation and required that the property be used to raise capital solely for the redevelopment of Puerto Madero. Resolution of these problems marked the first time in the urban planning history of Buenos Aires that the federal government and the municipality had reached an agreement on a joint urban development policy, especially one that would have such far-reaching implications for the city.

When the Barcelona experts delivered their strategic plan for the redevelopment of Puerto Madero to the mayor of Buenos Aires in July 1990, protests erupted over the lack of local participation in the project.  Pressure from the Central Society of Architects, the Center of Professional Architects and Planners, and other groups in Buenos Aires forced the Corporation to establish the National Contest of Ideas for Puerto Madero.   Design submissions were required to demonstrate how Puerto Madero could be rescued from its deteriorated state and reincorporated into the central city.  Moreover, residential areas had to be integrated with existing tertiary uses, open green spaces had to be doubled, and recreational and cultural activities had to be accommodated.  The final condition of the contest required that the historical heritage of the site be included in the project design. Ninety-six submissions were received and in February 1992 a panel of judges selected three winning teams, with three representatives from each winning team responsible for developing the final plan.  In October 1992, the Corporation unveiled the preliminary urban plan for the redevelopment of Puerto Madero, which included a proposal to establish a cluster of residential towers and office buildings at the edge of the project to mark the city's new limits on the Río de la Plata (Figure 3). 

Earlier in 1991, the Buenos Aires City Council had passed legislation designating the area that included the docks, wharves, and warehouses fronting avenues Madero and Huergo as the "Former Puerto Madero Area of Heritage Protection."  Conservation of the sixteen red-brick warehouses that stretched 2.5 km along the western side of the docks thus became a priority for the Corporation. The warehouses were designed in England, shipped to Argentina in sections, and assembled in place between 1900 and 1905.  With covered verandahs, platforms facing the water, and cranes attached to the walls, the buildings were outstanding examples of 19th-century English industrial architecture and the government considered them of significant cultural and historic value.  With a stipulation that the external façades remain, the first five warehouses located on the north side of the docks near the Retiro transportation complex were sold by public tender in late 1991.  The sale raised approximately 20 million dollars for the Corporation, with a further 45 million dollars pledged as investment in the rehabilitation of the warehouses.  Construction began in September 1992 with the gutting of the warehouse interiors (Figure 4) and restaurants, bars, and office suites soon began to emerge from the rubble (Figure 5).  Sale of the remaining warehouses occurred in late 1992, with ten million dollars raised for the Corporation and the promise of a further 40 million dollars in renovation investment.  Especially important for the mixed-use strategy of the development was the awarding of four warehouses on Quay 2 to the Argentine Catholic University for its new city campus.  

As the warehouses metamorphosed into new commercial outlets, apartments, and office space, work began on the two towers that serve as "gateways" to the northern (Telecom Building) and southern (Malecón Building) ends of the project.  In addition, work began on repairing the sidewalks, esplanades, bridges, and access roads that connected the various areas of Puerto Madero.  The influx of new businesses and people to Puerto Madero had immediate positive impacts on the Catalinas Norte office complex located at the northern end of the project in front of the Retiro transportation center (Figure 6). New buildings sprang up as the area quickly emerged as the premier office center in Buenos Aires.   At the southern end of Puerto Madero, completion of the La Plata freeway connection, construction of the "intelligent" Malecón office tower, the development of the university campus, and the opening of a state-of-the-art cinema complex on quay one signaled the potential redevelopment of the adjacent San Telmo, Barracas, and La Boca barrios.  These neighborhoods had deteriorated significantly since the 1940s and 1950s, when the development thrust of the central city had turned to the north and west, away from the river and away from the historic southern quarter.

By 1997, most of the redevelopment work on the western side of Puerto Madero had been completed and attention now turned to the eastern side of the quays. In keeping with the mixed-use strategy adopted by the Corporation, construction began on hotels, office buildings, apartment towers, parks, a parish church, new museums, another cinema complex, and a conference center.   Anchoring the central part of the project is the five-star Hilton Hotel (Figure 7), with a 4000-square meter convention center, surrounded by office buildings and apartment complexes. To the south, three industrial buildings of historical significance to the city will be preserved and renovated: the Di Tella Foundation is converting the flour mill at quay 3 into a series of university research institutes; the El Porteño mill on quay 2 is to become a luxury hotel remodeled by French designer Philippe Starck (Figure 8); and the large grain elevator on quay 3 will be merged into the Madero Este project (Figure 9).  Finally, to link this central area of Puerto Madero, especially the Hilton Hotel and its surrounding offices and apart-ments, to the city center, a swinging pedestrian footbridge has been constructed across quay 3 (Figure 10).

Other projects designed to increase the aesthetic and touristic appeal of Puerto Madero included the relocation of two museum ships to quays one and two respectively and the development of large public spaces.  All of the streets and parks within the redevelopment zone have been renamed after women who have made cultural and humanitarian contributions to Argentina. Sculptures have been erected at key inter-sections, trees and benches are located along the main esplanades and also at key intersections, and information boards in Spanish, English, and Portuguese are placed strategically around the entire area.  Upwards of 100 million dollars also have been invested in basic service infrastructure such as power and water lines, sewer systems, data and voice lines, rehabilitated bridges, and street signage.  In recognition of the significant metamorphosis of this once-derelict area, the city government incorporated Puerto Madero on September 9, 1998, as the official 47th barrio of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires.

            As of November 2001, the original 170-hectare site is divided between three specific uses: the quays and other waterways cover 39.5 hectares, public spaces account for 69.1 hectares, and the remaining 61.4 hectares have been urbanized or designated for residential or commercial use.  Construction remained active on fourteen different projects within the zone, with total private investment in completed projects and in works-in-progress exceeding two billion dollars.  However, the political and economic collapse experienced by Argentina in December 2001 has cast a dark cloud over the entire Puerto Madero project, particularly in light of the abandonment of the Convertibility Law that has spurred a rapid devaluation of the Argentine peso relative to the US dollar.


Project Evaluation and the Future of Puerto Madero

            In terms of the original goals of the governments, planners, business interests, and institutions involved in the Puerto Madero project, the overall redevelopment of the area has been a resounding success.  Jurisdictional conflicts were overcome, the lack of public funding did not stymie private investment, the entire zone has been physically and aesthetically rejuvenated, thousands of people daily flow through the area, and the city indeed has turned its face back towards the Río de la Plata.  Moreover, the redevelopment of Puerto Madero has encouraged new public and private investment in riverfront areas to the north and south of the project, although not at the level enjoyed by Puerto Madero.  Although there have been complaints about corruption throughout the twelve years of the project, as well as charges of mismanagement of Corporation funds, public attitudes about the area and its facilities on balance have been generally positive.

Referring back to Hoyle's (2000) three keys to potential waterfront redevelopment, the Puerto Madero project certainly achieved the first objective of integrating the past and present. The turn-of-the-century warehouses, in particular, serve as functional, aesthetic, and historical anchors for the project.  Integration of contrasting aims and objectives into the project design, the second objective, has been less successful, although a balance has been achieved in Puerto Madero between public and private needs and uses.  Achievement of the final objective, integration of communities and localities involved, is still subject to substantial debate, as some significant development issues remain unresolved. 

Puerto Madero still is poorly served by public transport and is not well integrated with the urban transit network.  Access and egress to the zone by pedestrians remain difficult and dangerous, especially across the two major boulevards that separate Puerto Madero from the city center. Buenos Aires also lacks any sophistication in its tourism marketing and promotion vis-a-vis the new area, and there is little evidence that Puerto Madero’s attractions have been meaningfully articulated with the city’s major tourist destinations.  Plans for the connection of the La Plata freeway in the south to the northern freeway remain in limbo. The Corporation is opposed to either a ground-level or elevated freeway that would pass in front of the rehabilitated warehouses, arguing that such a plan would create both physical and aesthetic problems and inhibit further growth in Puerto Madero.  A proposal to bury the freeway link in a tunnel underneath Madero and Huergo avenues is on the drawing board, but the costs of such a project, especially in light of the nation’s bankruptcy in early 2002, remain prohibitive.  A third proposal to extend the freeway link across the ecological zone that lies between the new development and the Río de la Plata has met with vociferous resistance by planners and environmentalists.  Although a railroad line runs parallel to Puerto Madero, providing a rush-hour passenger service from the western suburbs, the infrastructure is in very poor repair and needs significant investment in new track, signaling, and rolling stock.

            Criticism has been leveled against the project by community action groups and others who have argued that the funds generated by the sale of public land in Puerto Madero could have been better invested in social welfare projects elsewhere in the city.  Critics complain that Puerto Madero has achieved its goal of creating an urban landscape worthy of globalization and world-city status all too well, effectively excluding the masses of Buenos Aires from engaging with the project in any meaningful way.  The rehabilitation of Puerto Madero has articulated Buenos Aires and Argentina more forcefully with the global economy and its circuits of international capital, yet it has disarticulated the area from the basic socio-economic rhythms of the city.  In light of Argentina’s economic crisis at the beginning of 2002, the Puerto Madero project may reveal a significant vulnerability to its dependence on global capital and the trans-national elite.  Will there exist sufficient financial stimuli to see the remaining development through to completion, or will much of Puerto Madero stagnate once again and become a huge, unfinished construction zone?  Moreover, is there sufficient demand in the local, national, regional, and global economies to sustain the businesses already committed to the area?  Bankruptcies and failures rippling through the Argentine economy may well wreak havoc on Puerto Madero in the months and years ahead.

Returning to Hoyle’s (2000) characteristics of the port-city-global interface (see Figure 1), it is evident from examining the Puerto Madero experience that universal processes played a critical role in the redevelopment of this landscape.  It is unlikely that port redevelopment projects of any significant size around the world could succeed today without serious engagement with global capital and international management.  However, in less-robust economies this global engagement could well signify an increased level of project vulnerability and a lower certainty of long-term success.  Building new and rehabilitated infrastructure may be a prerequisite for increased global engagement and world city activities, but it may also prove to be a serious economic burden that could accelerate the collapse of a weakening domestic economy.  Should this happen in Buenos Aires, the city might face renewed conflict over land-use planning and development strategies and could be forced to rethink the level of its engagement with globalization and world-city strategies.



            A version of this paper was presented at the 2001 CLAG conference in Benicassim, Spain, in May 2001.  The author acknowledges the assistance in Buenos Aires of Dr. Juan Alberto Roccatagliata, the National Archives, the Corporación Antiguo Puerto Madero, and the City of Buenos Aires municipal government.




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Figure 1.  Characteristics of the Port-City-Global Interface. 

Source: Modified from Hoyle (2000:404)



Figure 2.  The  Madero and Hawkshaw Plan, 1885.

Source: Archivo General (1885).




Figure 3.  The Puerto Madero Zone, Buenos Aires.

Source: Modified from Corporación Antiguo (1999).




Figure 4.  Reconstruction of the warehouses.

Source: Photo by the Author, 1992.


Figure 5.  Rehabilitated Warehouse in Puerto Madero.

Source: Photo by the Author, 1995


Figure 6.  The Telecom Tower and Catalinas Norte

at the Northern End of Puerto Madero

Source: Photo by the Author, 2001.


Figure 7.  The Hilton Hotel in central Puerto Madero.

Source: Photo by the Author, 2001


Figure 8.  The El Porteño Mill Scheduled for Conversion to a Luxury Hotel

Source: Photo by the Author, 2001.


Figure 9.  Construction underway on Madero Este,

to include office buildings and  apartments

Source: Photo by the Author, 2001.


Figure 10.  The Puente de La Mujer (Woman's Bridge),

designed by Santiago Calatrava,

linking central Puerto Madero to the City Center

Source: Photo by the Author, 2001.