The secrets of the family that owns the most iconic domes of the city of Buenos Aires

Violeta Bencich surprised the public with her story – Credits: @Hernan Zenteno

For years, the domes of Buenos Aires have been a trend. Whether to observe the city from another point of view, take photos, visit the bar of a roof top or to portray neighboring constructions. What the group that climbed to the top floor of the Bencich building last Saturday never imagined is that it would be received on the heights by three generations of the family that built it. Since 1927, the Bencichs have been the sole owners and administrators of the building, located on Diagonal Norte and Florida, which is famous for its twin domes.

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The star of the meeting was Violeta Bencich, 89 years old. For the first time he narrated in front of the public the secrets hidden behind the walls of the emblematic building erected by his father Massimiliano. “I’m excited that so many people are interested. We did not realize that the domes could have such importance. But this would surely not have occurred to my father either, ”the woman said at the beginning of the interview with THE NATIONwhile people came to listen to the talk, which took place on the terrace and in one of the towers with an entrance on Avenida Roque Sáenz Peña 615. Patricia and María Cabezas, daughters of the woman’s older sister, Susana, along with Santiago Cabezas, one of Violeta’s grandchildren, were also present..

Bencich Palace; Society

A historical photo of Massimiliano Bencich and his wife Rosita, Violeta’s parents; he and his brother Miguel built emblematic buildings in Buenos Aires-Credits: @Gentileza Familia Bencich

The event was organized by the plastic artist Marga Fabbri. Through your program look at viewpoints, invites the public to climb the domes of the city and portray what is observed. It was the first time that one of his groups entered the Bencich and that the participants were surprised by the presence of the owner of the dome while they were walking through it. To repeat the experience, a similar meeting will take place next October.

Buildings that are works of art

At the beginning of the 20th century, Miguel and his brother Massimiliano built buildings that are works of art. On the Frenchified Diagonal Norte avenue and with plans by the French architect Le Monnier, they created two relevant and opposing buildings, the Bencich and the Miguel Bencich, the latter at Roque Sáenz Peña 616. The family, originally from Trieste, an Italian town that was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, had a construction company focused on apartments for rent, mostly housing, although those of Sáenz Peña were always rented as offices.

The domes of the Bencich building on Avenida de Mayo. The owner Violeta Bencich, wearing a hat, was present, as well as other descendants of the family.

Tour organized by the Mirar miradors program in the domes of the Bencich building – Credits: @Hernan Zenteno

It was not necessary to ask Violeta almost anything, enthusiastically she told a series of family anecdotes. The Bencichs arrived at the Hotel de Inmigrantes in 1910 to work as stonemasons, he started saying. “Dad when he arrived he saw Buenos Aires illuminated and he was fascinated. He said ‘What a wonderful country,’ ”said the woman, who for years has been coming to her office every day, located inside the Bencich. She does it to take care of the administration of the building.

The brothers had started working in Trieste at the age of 16; They built the two-story house where their parents lived. “My grandmother held the lantern for them so they could paint the ceiling. When her sister asked permission to go to the dance, her grandparents told her that she had to make them a shirt first, ”she says.

Bencich Palace; Society

Violeta Bencich remembers her uncle Miguel Bencich and her aunt Celestina

Later it was Massimiliano himself, an older master builder, who already in Buenos Aires would tell his daughters: “Do gymnastics, hold the lantern so I can paint.” The practice of physical activity was recorded in Violeta and today, when she arrives at her house from work, Almost 90 years old, he trains going up and down the stairs of the Faculty of Law. With the same agility she climbs to her dome.

The anecdote of painting the ceilings occurred when they owned the company and the whole family lived together in a large house. But before and after breaking stones, they had dedicated themselves to installing sewers, when they did not yet exist in the city.

The domes of the Bencich building on Avenida de Mayo. The owner Violeta Bencich, wearing a hat, was present, as well as other descendants of the family.

From the twin domes of the Bencich it is possible to admire other emblematic buildings of the city – Credits: @Hernan Zenteno

They erected some seven emblematic buildings distributed in different parts of the city. Nevertheless, the Bencich is a postcard of Buenos Aires for its privileged location, its twin domes and for being surrounded by other iconic towers. It has almost 14,000 covered square meters built in concrete; on the 10th floor sits the base of the two domes. They are separated by a terrace and rise to the 14th floor.

According to Néstor Zakim, an architect specializing in building auctions, what characterizes both is their neoclassical profile, although they make up a building complex that is close to eclectic proposals. “The huge vaults have an undeniable message of institutional strength for the Bencich company, which continue to stand out on the Buenos Aires skyline”, says the expert.

The domes of the Bencich building on Avenida de Mayo. The owner Violeta Bencich, wearing a hat, was present, as well as other descendants of the family.

“Dad upon arrival saw Buenos Aires illuminated and was fascinated”, remembers Violeta Bencich – Credits: @Hernan Zenteno

“We all had to work”

Violeta remembers climbing up there for the first time when she was 12 years old: “The elevator had an elevator operator, he went up with the lever, and my stomach also went up.” His father went to the office every day in an impeccable white shirt and, in order not to stain his cuffs, he would first pass a flannel to the desk. When he got home, he gave his daughters the rent receipts. According to Violeta, “Susy would put the blotter on and I would turn the sheet of the checkbook over. We all had to work.”

His aunt, Celestina Bencich, bought the materials they sold in Europe and gave breakfast to the workers in a corralón set up on Leandro N. Alem avenue. From there the employees left for the different works. His father went daily with the driver to tour the constructions in progress.

The domes of the Bencich building on Avenida de Mayo. The owner Violeta Bencich, wearing a hat, was present, as well as other descendants of the family.

Interior of one of the domes of the Bencich building, on Diagonal Norte and Florida – Credits: @Hernan Zenteno

He gave them 5 pesos to buy clothes and told them “this is enough”. Uncle Miguel, who had no children, secretly gave them a ticket for shoes or a blouse, which made Massimiliano angry. To his younger brother, Enrique, it was Violeta who suggested incorporating him into the construction company. They had begun to buy conventillos in La Boca, where they became friends with Quinquela Martín. They called him Don Quinquela. “I’m going to send the painters to paint your house the way you like it,” Bencich told the artist. Quinquela offered to make him a member of the Club de la Boca, “but dad didn’t want to, he was shy; he liked Italian opera, going to the movies with mom. They were very friendly.”

Enrique’s mission was to describe to the father, who treated your children, the characteristics of the conventillo to be acquired. “’It has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a vine,’ my brother used to say. Dad stopped him one day and asked him: ‘And what kind of grape was the vine made of?’ He made us very funny, but he describes it as it was, very detailed, ”he revealed.

The domes of the Bencich building on Avenida de Mayo. The owner Violeta Bencich, wearing a hat, was present, as well as other descendants of the family.

Violeta Bencich, her nieces Patricia and María, and her grandson Santiago, in the dome open to the public last Saturday – Credits: @Hernan Zenteno

When the rent freeze took place, for 40 years the Bencichs bought fractions of land in San Miguel, Glew, Ezeiza and Longchamps, among other places of the suburbs. “We opened the streets, we sold lots to newly arrived Italians. We traveled together, mom brought the picnic for everyone. It was a very nice life,” she concluded.



The secrets of the family that owns the most iconic domes of the city of Buenos Aires