The British Embassy in Buenos Aires celebrated the first 100 years of the Ambassador’s Residence, a building that is on Argentina’s national heritage list and regarded as one of the most beautiful British diplomatic residences in the world.
More than 200 guests attended the reception. The event featured the presentation of the book “British Residence 1917-2017” which compiles text and images reflecting the history of British diplomatic missions in Argentina and the construction of the building, which was initially known as the Madero-Unzué Residence.
In his speech, Ambassador Mark Kent pointed out that an Ambassador’s residence is not just the temporary address of a diplomatic representative. It is much more than that.
It is used by ambassadors to engage with society. It is our letter of introduction, a tool to entertain guests, the place where high-ranking officials and members of the Royal Family stay when they visit the country. And it is also a link with our history and a symbol of continuity. For seven decades now, all my predecessors have lived in this building and so will my successors.
For me it is a real pleasure to be the temporary occupant of one of the architectural jewels of Buenos Aires. But it is also a big responsibility. I live in a building that has been included in Argentina’s national heritage list. The whole British Embassy team is very much aware of how important it is to maintain and preserve it for future generations”.
Other speakers at the event were Hector Ayerza, representing the descendants of the Madero-Unzué family, and Samuel “Sam” Victoria, who has been the Residence butler for more than 22 years.
Ayerza, who was born in the residence and spent the early years of his life in this building, located at Gelly y Obes 2333, spoke about his grandparents’ vision when they commissioned the construction and provided details of his family life at the Residence. Sam recalled stories about some of the high-level visitors that the Residence has seen over the past few decades, from Princess Diana to the Rolling Stones.
The Residence was built between 1913 and 1917 by British architects Walter B. Bassett Smith and Bertie Hawkins Collcutt at the request of the Madero-Unzué family. It is an Edwardian building but it also combines elements of the Bourbon era with 18th century English neo-Palladian features.
The married couple formed by Carlos María Madero and Sara Unzué Baudrix decided in 1912 to have their property built. They lived in it with their family until Carlos, and his wife a few years later, passed away, after which the residence was put up for sale and purchased in 1945 by the British Government.
Experts in furniture conservation say that the British Residence has one of the most important collections of English furniture in Buenos Aires. The main hall contains sculptures from the British Government‘s Art Collection which includes pieces borrowed from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.
The main room, the drawing room, the study/library and the dining room are all used for different cultural events, official visits and other functions associated with the UK’s diplomatic activity in Argentina.
The Residence contains furniture and art pieces dating from the 17th to the 20th century. The trunk was property of Sir Woodbine Parish, the first British representative in Argentina (1824-1826). The garden houses a large number of native trees and shrubs. Part of the wall that used to mark the boundary of the property was preserved after the purchase of Hale House, the building used as British Residence before 1945. Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, visited the Residence in 1966, planted a tree and laid a foundation stone.