Argentina has unique architecture and city layout.
While the homes in the United States tend to be made of wood, most homes in southern Argentina are made of brick and cement. Whereas brick homes tend to be more expensive in America, brick homes tend to be cheaper than wood homes in Argentina. The main reason for this is probably the lack of trees in the Patagonia.
Helping people build homes in Argentina
On my mission I had the opportunity to help build several homes for people in Argentina. Though I didn’t get extremely involved in the technical aspects of construction, I was able to discern the basic process Argentinians use to build a brick home.
Steps to build a brick home in Argentina
Digging a septic hole
One of the first things you do in building an Argentine home is to dig a hole- 8-12 feet deep and about 6-10 feet wide for your bathroom waste to go into. To help the septic hole not collapse in, you can put a brick wall along the inside of the septic hole.
Laying foundation beams
Before you can start building the brick walls of the house, you need to lay the concrete foundation beams. You can do this by digging a trench along where the walls of the house will be erected. Next you can place a long square metal frame (about 6” by 6” wide and as long as the wall) into the trenches. Next you pour the concrete into the trenches enough to cover the metal frames. The result should be a concrete foundation on which to raise up brick walls.
Laying the bricks
Once you have concrete down to start putting bricks on, you can start laying the bricks. Bricks are laid down with about a half inch of cement in between them. Bricks are laid down like legos where they overlap each other. One of the main challenges of brick-laying is to ensure the bricks are level. After a brick wall is erected you pour water over the bricks to help the bricks and cement fuse.
Adding the cement wall/ceiling beams
Brick walls are secured by pouring cement in wooden containers on the tops of the brick wall to create a cement beam on top of the bricks. Every dozen feet or so you can put up a vertical cement beam to strengthen the brick wall. Each corner of the house will have a cement vertical beam.
Building the roof
An Argentine roof can be constructed by placing cement beams that span from wall to wall. You can then place large Styrofoam blocks and ceramic shingles on top of the beams. Though there are various ways to make roofs in Argentina, cement beams, Styrofoam blocks and ceramic shingles are common. I personally wouldn’t recommend placing cement beams from wall to wall as many Argentines do, because the beams are very heavy and could be deadly if they were to dislodge and fall on you.
Besides the brick homes in Argentina, there are many wooden and metal shacks in the poor neighborhoods of Argentina known as tomas.
Argentine City Layouts
I loved the city layout in Argentina. The layout is European in Argentina. Instead of large store centers in the city, they typically have small stores every block or so that sells fresh vegetables, fruit and bread. Any weight I gained in Argentina was from the bread. The have Verdulerias (veggie shops), Fruterias (fruit shops) and Panaderias (bread shops). Usually within 2-3 blocks walking distance you can get to any of those. The typical behavior is to go daily for the food you need for meals. They have little convenience stores called “Kioskos” that sell milk, eggs, etc. I enjoyed having a little store close so you didn’t have to plan a big grocery list. The architecture was fascinating. They have entire city blocks where every house shares its outside walls with its neighbors and so the entire block will be shaped like an inner courtyard, surround by a bunch of houses connected, so you can’t walk in between houses. The set-up started as a security measure to help prevent robberies so you couldn’t get into other people’s houses except through their front door. -Kempton