If you are a citizen of Buenos Aires you have probably been asked directions to the big metal flower, which to a citizen of that city is somewhat akin to being asked the way to the big white house in the States or the big clock that chimes in London.
Its real name is Floris Genérica and it is something quite remarkable. Standing in the middle of the United Nations Plaza (Plaza Naciones Unidas) you have to admit that the description is quite apt. In the middle of a reflecting pool there it is – the big metal flower.
It was a gift to the city in 2002 from architect Eduardo Catalano. The architect, who died earlier this year, was born in Buenos Aires and wanted a lasting display and thanks for his home city which reflected both its beauty and its modernity. Opinions, as with any other piece of art, are divided but it is a potent symbol of both the natural world and the technological one.
The architect himself maintained that it was a synthesis of all the flowers and is both a hope that is reborn every day to open. An expensive hope, perhaps. At US$6m (a gift from its creator) one might ask was a symbol worth that amount of money? Most would probably agree it was: the pleasure it gives cannot be measured financially.
From afar it belies its dimensions which are colossal. The flower has six petals and each of these is 13 meters in length and 7 meters at its widest. The flower is made from stainless steel and is reinforced by an aluminum skeleton and concrete.
It is only when you get closer your realise its full immensity. It towers about the pedestrians in the plaza at 23 meters in height and weights and enormous eighteen tons. It is no simple structure by any means – visitors who do not know its secret are in for a surprise twice a day.
This on its own would be remarkable yet there is a mechanism underlying the mostly static majesty of the flower. Designed by the artist it was constructed by Lockheed Martin Aircraft Argentina. That may give you a clue what happens.
In the evening the petals close – taking around twenty minutes to do so and mimicking the process with which a real flower greets the sunset. At night it is resplendent, bathed in red floodlights and array of smaller green lights dotted along the pathways.
If you have never visited Buenos Aires you may not be familiar with the fact that it is a city of dogs as well as people. The Floris Genérica is popular with joggers for two reasons. The plaza is a great shape in which you can measure your pace and the distance you jog. It is also forbidden to dogs, which means your eyes can be elsewhere other than on the ground seeking to locate and then avoid the little presents the canine throng would otherwise leave behind.
On four days the petals stay open all night: September 21, May 25, December 24 and December 31. The first is Argentina’s National Patriotic Day, the second celebrates the day on which Mario Bunge, Argentine philosopher and physicist was born in 1919. The last two we think you can guess for yourself.