Julio Carlos Thays (1849-1934) French landscape architect, originally uploaded by blmurch.
Julio Carlos Thays was born in Paris, France on August 20, 1849. He studied landscape architecture under Édouard André. At the age of 40, in 1889, he was brought to Argentina at the request of Miguel Crisol to design Sarmiento Park in the city of Córdoba (second largest city in Argentina about 600 kms to the north-west of Buenos Aries). As happens with most travelers who come to Argentina, he fell in love with the country. He became a permanent resident and lived the rest of his life - until 1934 - in Argentina. He was given the position of the Director of Parks and Walkways of Buenos Aires and designed many of the parks and plazas around town. He also was responsible for bringing two of my favorite native trees of northern Argentina to Buenos Aires, the Jacaranda and Tipa trees. They line the streets and avenues, providing fresh air, shade, beauty and grace to the busy streets. I have a sneaking suspicion that he was also responsible for the introduction of the Plane trees, but I have no proof. I first saw them when I lived in Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France and was happy to see them here.
Mr. Thays was responsible for the majority of the greenery you see here around town and has made a lasting impact. I know I'm not the only one who is enamored of the trees here in Buenos Aires. He remodeled many of the parks - Bosque de Palermo, Centenario, Lezama, Patricios, Barrancas de Belgrano and the plazas - Constitución, Congreso, and Mayo. His largest work was the creation of the National Park of Iguazu Falls. He worked on many others throughout southern Latin America, in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. I learned in my Spanish class that the Plaza del Congreso was built at the same time as the Avenida de Mayo which connects the Casa Rosada and Cabildo with the Congress and required the tearing down of whole city blocks of buildings to make way for the open space in front of the Congress Building.
The Botanical Garden is Mr. Thays's crowning glory and bears his name: Jardin Botanico Carlos Thays. He planted the historic Palo Borracho tree that greets visitors at the Plaza Italia entrance on September 7, 1898. This tree has since been filled in with cement to stop the spread of disease and preserve the trunk. It seems to have worked. I visited the garden in March with my in-laws when they came for a visit. It is a must for visitors and locals alike. The trees and other plants are beautiful, the signs are informative, the benches are mostly shady, the sculptures provide culture and knowledge and the cats create a wonderful ambiance. You can almost forget you are in the middle of a large metropolis, but not quite. We sat on a bench and shared a mate and drank in not only the bitter herb, but also the gorgeous first day of autumn.
Further reading in English and Spanish: