‘El Ateneo Grand Splendid’ in Buenos Aires opened in 1919 as a palatial theatre and has since been converted into a bookstore. Originally designed by architects Peró and Torres Armengol, it features expansive ceiling frescoes painted by Italian artist Nazareno Orlandi, and caryatids sculpted by Troiano Troiani, resulting in a ecclesiastical structure.
In 2000, the building was leased by Grupo Ilhsa who decided to renovate the space, converting the 1,050 seat theatre into a book and music shop. Local architect Francesco Manzone lead the refurbishment of the 2,000 m² (21,000 ft²) performance venue, removing all of the chairs and installing shelves in their place. Much of the architectural splendour of the original structure, including artistic and sculptural details, as well as the auditorium lighting has been maintained, with thousands of books lining the walls of the mezzanine levels that offer views of the entire interior.
The theatre boxes remain intact and offer a private space for patrons to delve into a good book; while the former stage, where famous tango artists once performed, has now been transformed into a café. So, even though ‘El Ateneo Grand Splendid’ no longer functions as a theatre, one still experiences the grandiose feeling of one.
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