The origins of the Bauen: the 1978 World Cup
“Even though it cost 700 million dollars, for the first time, we Argentines know what things cost, and we will pay that debt, even if it does not turn out to be easy.” This was the opening of an editorial in the magazine Gente from June first, 1978, one of the many media outlets committed to propaganda service to the military dictatorship. In those days, they devoted their full efforts to whitewashing the image of the country, due to the old concern for “how they see us abroad.” That image was stained by the crimes of the military junta, or, from its perspective, what it had come to call the “anti-Argentina campaign,” which is to say, the accusations of disappearances, torture, and murders perpetrated by the State. Overseas, especially in European countries, these accusations were made by political exiles and human-rights organizations, and only foreign media published them. The amount referred to the cost of the 1978 World Cup, the massive sporting event organized by the Independent World Cup Body ’78 (EAM 78), which the military junta used to try to sell the world on the idea that “we Argentines are upstanding and humane.” Four years later, Spain would organize its own World Cup for a quarter the cost. Vice-Admiral Carlos Alberto Lacoste, who was in charge of the EAM 78, bragged about not keeping track of the accounting of the organization he administered.1
“In spite of our scant hotel infrastructure, in less than two years, we raised model hotels,” Gente went on in another paragraph of the editorial. It was alluding primarily to the Bauen.
This context—dictatorship, unclear accounting, debts that would not be easy to pay, and five-star hotels built at top speed2 to house the teams and tourists that the World Cup would bring—is where the Bauen had its origins. The building is a 60-meter-tall tower with 220 rooms on twenty floors, plus meeting rooms and an auditorium, built in the downtown of the capital of the Argentine Republic, and it came to be the undisputed emblem of the movement of businesses recovered by their workers that was born 25 years later. This was surely something never imagined by Marcelo Iurcovich, the businessman who pulled off the miracle of building an enormous hotel without investing a single peso.
- Gustavo Veiga, “The sinister face of soccer,” in Página/12, 27 of June of 2004. Recovered from https://www.pagina12.com.ar/diario/deportes/8-37302-2004-06-27.html↩
- May 19, 1978, at the time of its construction, the Architecture Engineering, Planning, and Design supplement to the newspaper Clarín was titled: “A slab every six days,” highlighting the speed and the method used. That same day, on pages 2 and 3 of that supplement, there was also a note on “The use of prefabrication to shorten work time.”↩