Friday, July 29, 2011

Skinny Houses & Luxury Landmarks


Earlier this month, New York’s narrowest house – a mid-19th century construction in Manhattan that’s only 2.4 meters (less than eight feet) wide - went on the market for US$4.3 million. By that measure, Buenos Aires’s Casa Mínima, in the colonial barrio of San Telmo, is a mansion that sprawls across its 2.5-meter facade on the cobbled colonial alleyway of Pasaje San Lorenzo (dating from 2008, the photograph above includes the adjacent building, which has a normal frontage).

Dating from the early 19th century, the Casa Mínima is no longer a residence and is not for sale (the photograph above dates from the 1930s). An improbable legend says it was a manumission gift from a slaveholder to his former chattel, but it now belongs to businessman Jorge Eckstein. Eckstein has made it part of El Zanjón de Granados, an events center that sits atop a warren of colonial tunnels (pictured below) that are now open for tours.

For anyone who wants an idea of what it might be like to live in such small quarters, and can’t afford Manhattan prices, a tour of the Casa Mínima offers an alternative budget option. The house’s narrow entrance leads onto a slightly wider patio (pictured below) where the former kitchen sits and a wall-hugging staircase leads to an even narrower bedroom, which features a street-side balcony directly above the exterior doorway.

And Now for Something Completely Different

About 2-1/2 years ago, I wrote about Lord Alain Levenfiche’s attempt to sell his 14th floor apartment in Retiro’s Edificio Kavanagh, the landmark building that will celebrate its 75th anniversary this year. According to the Buenos Aires daily Clarín, Levenfiche has upset his consortium neighbors, who value their privacy highly, by gutting the historic interior for a remodel and renting it out for meetings and events – “turning it into a tacky nightclub,” according to one resident. Strangers come and go at all hours.

Overlooking Plaza San Martín, the apartment, once occupied by the building’s original owner, Corina Kavanagh, remains on the market. Levenfiche has lowered the price to just US$4.5 million – making it just a tad more expensive than the narrowest house in Manhattan. Unfortunately, unlike the Casa Mínima, the Kavanagh is not open for tours; unless we decide to make an offer, neither you nor I are likely ever to see its interior.

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