A theater repurposed as a bookstore? How come no one’s ever thought of this before? If you ever find yourself in Buenos Aires, Argentina, add El Ateneo Grand Splendid to your itinerary. Designed by architects Peró and Torres Armengol, the venue originally opened up in the 1920s as Teatro Grand Splendid, featuring performances by tango singers and other shows. It was later converted into a movie theater. Over the decades, the space was converted for multiple uses, depending on demands. However, in 1991, the theater was shut down due to economic troubles and scheduled for demolition. And then came the Ilhsa Group, owners of the El Ateneo publishing house. They purchased the building in 2000 and reimagined it into one of the most impressive book and music shops in the world. Wouldn’t it be great if libraries were set up like this? There are seats on stage and in the balcony boxes. There’s a nook for every type of person. We’d love to explore this beautiful space in person one day. Continue reading for photos and details.It was originally created for Max Glücksmann, an Argentine Jewish pioneer of the music and film industries. The venue, then called Teatro Gran Splendid, opened up in May 1919.
This is what it looks like today. The theater featured frescoes painted by Italian-Argentine painter Nazareno Orlandi and caryatids by sculptor Troiano Troiani.
The dome features images to represent peace following the First World War.
Originally from Italy, Nazareno Orlandi was an award-winning muralist who was summoned to Buenos Aires by Francesco Tamburini and the Argentinian government. He settled there until his death in 1952.
Cinema was on the rise in the 1920s, and that’s when the venue was converted to show films. In 1929, some of the first sound films in Argentina were shown at this location.
Despite its beauty and history, the theater wasn’t doing well due to economic troubles. It was slated to be destroyed.
Group Ilhsa owns El Ateneo and Yenny booksellers and El Eteneo publishing house. Thanks to architect Fernando Manzone, the group was able to renovate the place. Cinema seating was cleared, making room for book shelves, but many parts of the original design were kept as is.
Naturally, this location became the flagship store. About 3,000 people stop by El Ateneo Grand Splendid each day.
In 2007, visitors purchased over 700,000 books. Most of the titles are in Spanish, but there is a small collection in English, consisting mainly of romance and mystery, according to travel views by tourists.
And we can see why! The building has that early 20th century charm. There’s also something grand about being in a theater and a certain warmth to all bookstores, so when you combine the two, you have pure magic.
Seating and space can be a luxury at bookstores these days, especially as we’re going digital, so make sure to take advantage of this unique seating arrangement.
We’re crossing our fingers to see something like this in our own neighborhoods soon!