The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)


Restoring a historic landmark in Argentina

UNOPS worked with the government of Argentina to restore the Manzana de las Luces complex – a cultural institution in the city of Buenos Aires.

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For 400 years, the Manzana de las Luces in Buenos Aires, Argentina has been at the centre of political, cultural and educational development in the city – serving as the site for Buenos Aires’ first bank and museum. It has housed important public institutions, including the national public library, and was the founding site for the University of Buenos Aires.

Over the years, the site had fallen into a state of deterioration and needed extensive repairs and restoration. Housing a museum and a cultural centre, the poor building conditions limited its use and risked further damage to the historical features of the building. UNOPS worked with Argentina’s Ministry of Culture to support the preservation and restoration of the complex’s facade and roofs.

We believe this project will help safeguard an important part of Argentina’s cultural heritage and contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 11 by supporting resilient and inclusive cities.

Catherine Withrow - UNOPS Head of Programme in Argentina

From 2018 to 2023, UNOPS provided technical and operational support for the restoration, carrying out the process in accordance with international preservation standards. Architectural interventions throughout the building’s history led to many different styles being incorporated into the building. Specialized technical studies were used to assess and preserve the building's unique mix of styles, with at least 14 architectural styles identified in the complex’s roof.

Manzana de las Luces

The museum in the Manzana de las Luces showcases the stories of underrepresented groups and shines a light on the experiences of the women, LGBTQI+ communities and indigenous groups who have lived in Buenos Aires throughout its history.

“The key to the success of this project was the continuous coordination with the National Museum Commission, who guided us to ensure compliance with the national regulation and international conservation standards,” said Catherine Withrow, UNOPS Head of Programme in Argentina.

To help promote equality and inclusion, the project highlighted the importance of women’s perspectives in construction and helped raise awareness among local construction personnel about common gender stereotypes. Women represented 30 per cent of the project team, working across different levels and functions, from architects and archaeologists to engineers and health and safety specialists.

During the restoration of the building, well-preserved sewage systems from the 18th and 19th centuries were discovered. The space was redesigned in the restoration process to showcase this discovery to the public and promote tourist interest in the site.

“[This building] brings together two aspects: on the one hand it is a site museum, it is a museum where things happened, but it is also a cultural centre [...] We welcome those identities, social groups and communities that were often displaced from the history that was discussed here,” said Gustavo Blasquez, Director of Manzana de las Luces.

The restoration of the Manzana de las Luces complex will help to preserve a rich heritage site in Buenos Aires, provide a space for community engagement initiatives and serve as a centre for the celebration of art, culture and history in the city.

The new space has made the building safer, allowing people to comfortably take part in classes, events, exhibitions and other cultural activities hosted at the site.

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