I must have walked or driven past this magnificent building a few dozen times but it never crossed my mind to go inside. As it so often happens with the attractions of one’s hometown, I never really paid much attention to what was inside the building and when it was built and what for. Now that I’m a tourist in Buenos Aires, I learned that there is a museum inside the Palacio de las Aguas Corrientes, owned by the water company, AySA.
A potted history first
Back in 1871, the city government decided to build a water treatment plant and reservoir as the prevailing sanitary conditions were poor. Although a small plant had been built in 1869, the majority of the population depended on water from wells and the river. Also, the lack of sewers and sanitation made Buenos Aires highly vulnerable to yellow fever and cholera epidemics.
So in 1886 plans for a big reservoir and treatment plant were approved. The idea was to build a monument to public sanitation as well, so the building should be grand and in keeping with the posh surroundings. An English engineering firm, John F. Bateman, was hired to design the facade, and a Belgian conglomerate was in charge of the iron structure inside. The construction was carried out by two Argentinean companies.
The building is square, with each side measuring 90 metres. The design was inspired by the architecture of the French Second Empire and some Central European buildings, like the Palais de Justice of Antwerp. The 300,000 multicolour terracotta pieces that adorn the facade were made by Royal Doulton & Co from London then shipped to Argentina and the puzzle was assembled on site. The building was opened in 1894 and declared historic landmark in 1987.
Museo del Agua y de la Historia Sanitaria – Sanitation Museum
This small museum is located on the first floor: go past a desk and turn right, go up one flight of stairs and the entrance is on the right. The entrance is free of charge, just walk in.
The collection consists of terracotta ornaments, pipes, meters, taps, historic documents like a bill dating from 1915 for emptying a cart with sewage and … ta dah… toilets! You can trace the history of the loo in this place!Riobamba 750 Buenos Aires Open Monday through Friday from 9 to 1.