Memory Park, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Source: Creative Commons Atribución-CompartirIgual 4.0 Internacional. Photographer: Roberto Fiadone


Alberto Varas, Miguel Baudizzone & Jorge Lestard

Type of Area


Land/water interaction


Built Environment Types

Moderately built
Moderate green

Scale of Impact


Intervention Scale (Spatial)

Large site

Project Types

Cultural heritage restoration
Riverfront development
Public green space regeneration

Urban/ Rural

Inner urban area

Visibility and Openness

Fully open
Full horizon

A place of pain

The Memory Park in Buenos Aires is sited close to the airport and the river, Rio de la Plata. The Jorge Newbery airport operated “death flights” during the military dictatorships and many victims were thrown into the river from the planes. Building public spaces in Argentina is always a contentious task and more so due to the theme of the park. The design of the memorial tells the story of the “disappeared” during the period of state-sponsored violence. The ramped path through the lawn leading towards the river represents a giant wound. There are 18 sculptures representing the disappeared, but the primary monument that embodies the physical and emotional backbones of the memorial is a long granite wall that zigzags pointing to the skies and the water’s edge like a scar on the landscape. The wall contains plaques for the victims, some with names and some empty. 

The promenade and piers are designed to capture the view. Seating around the open grassy area allows people to observe the sculptures and gaze across the water. Visitors can interact with the river in a variety of ways. Terraces and piers allow people to get close to the water and there are steps down to the water and pocket beaches. 

Native, low maintenance planting was used with trees in the plaza section being illuminated from below at night. The grass on the hill is left to grow tall to discourage active recreation as the space is designed as a space for remembering those murdered. Additionally, as the area is not designed as a space for healing, hard materials with striking textures are used to emphasise the violence of the era. The triangular geometry allows walkways to open up and accommodate plazas and with space for the information centre

Perception and Meaning

Sense of place
Genius loci
Place identity

Health and Wellbeing

Place affordance
Sense of being away
Aesthetic experience

Interaction with Water

Tactile – touching water

Accessibility generally is excellent to this site, however, it is slightly lower for pedestrian access due to the busy highway between the city and the memorial site. There are crossings and bridges but these would be difficult for those with mobility problems. The memorial site itself is accessible for pushchair and wheelchair users.  The connections to the city via vehicular and cycle routes are also good. Other facilities are mainly seating.

As a memorial site it has a high cultural value with a strong sense of genius loci. The evocative atmosphere created gives space for contemplation and a sensory experience that is fitting to its sombre purpose. The lack of facilities for physical activities and sports is therefore understandable – these would be out of place. There is also limited water access in part due to the focus of the site and also because the river may be dangerous.

Lighting is good but shading from the sun is lacking and it is also somewhat exposed to the wind, which could be improved with sensitive planting that does not obscure the views to the river. This would also improve the spaces available for visitors to reflect on the past atrocities. The open space ensures there is a clear connection between the land and the river –  a deliberate focus to remind people of those who lost their lives by being thrown into the water from the death flights.The focus is thus on a stark reminder of the past and so natural features have not been at the forefront of the design of this site and thus are rated as relatively low.