The city of La Plata, Argentina is the captial city of the province of Buenos Aires. It is located south of the capital city of the country, Buenos Aires. The city was founded in 1882 by Governor Dardo Rocha. Peter Benoit, an urban planner, was hired to design the city. He designed the city in the shape of a square turned on its side which gives it the appearance of a baseball diamond. It has two main avenues running diagonally through the city which cross at Plaza Moreno, a large central park which lies between the cathedral and City Hall. Many of the attractions that are available to visitors today--the cathedral, museum of natural history, observatory, zoo and theatre--were built and planned during the early days of the city. The main buildings which were designed during the foundation of La Plata, reflect the varied European influences prevalent at the time; Italian, German, Spanish and Greek.
The cathedral in La Plata started with construction in 1884, but was not completed until 1999. It is built in a Gothic style. The cathedral is the largest in Argentina and one of the four tallest in all of Latin America. It was inspired by the churches of Amiens, France and Cologne, Germany. The architect for the cathedral was Ernesto Meyer.
The two spires of the church reach 367 feet into the air. Visitors are able to go up in one of the towers via elevator and look down on the city. From that vantage point they can see a beautiful panoramic view of the city and Plaza Moreno, the plaza between the church and City Hall. It is located in the geographical center of the city.
The church is able to hold 14,000 people inside the 75000 square foot construction. The church has a stained-glass window that is more than 1900 square feet containing 25,000 pieces.
The University of La Plata (Universidad Nacional de La Plata, UNLP) was founded in 1897 and was nationalized in 1905. There are more than 75,000 students studying 106 available degrees. Students attend this university with its four campuses as well as three other universities in the city. Because of the four universities are in town, La Plata is influenced by a large youth population.
The University of La Plata is home to the Museum of Natural History and the Observatory.
Museum of Natural History
Though the museum was founded as part of the city and came under its budget, it was given over to the control of the University of La Plata in 1906. Its first director was Francisco Moreno, for whom Plaza Moreno is named. He was a naturalist who explored much of Argentina's virgin territory. At the time of its founding, the museum was acclaimed by Henry Augustus Ward to be the fourth most important museum in the world.
It was founded in 1888 with a greco-roman style. There are more than 3 million items in its collection today. There are 21 exhibit halls with items mostly from South America. There are geological exhibits as well as flora, fauna and cultural exhibits.
More than 1 million people visit the museum annually. They walk through the 135 meter oval building observing the many palaeontological and zoological exhibits. While the vast majority of the items in the museum are South American, or Argentine specifically, there is an extensive Egyptian exhibit.
The observatory in La Plata was first proposed before La Plata was even founded. The foundation for the future plans of the observatory was laid out by then president Sarmiento and a US astrologer Benjamin Gould. Ground was broken to begin construction in 1883.
Many of the early instruments in the observatory came from a French expedition to Argentina to observe Venus passing in front of the sun. The first director of the observatory was a Lieutenant in the French Army, Francisco Beuf. He was also the director of the Naval Observatory in Toulon.
The zoo in La Plata was founded in 1907 and is located near the museum. Both can be visited in a single day. The zoo is constructed in a Victorian style.
The first director of the zoo was Alfredo Plot. Plot's idea of the zoo was to make it a place of recreation and leisure. It did not have many animals at the time. The successor to Plot was Carlos Marelli who took over the zoo in 1918 and remained in his position until 1940. There were many changes during his tenure. He added many animals and turned the zoo into a research facility instead of just a place to show animals.
The zoo is not large, but it is a nice place to spend a couple of hours with the family.
The Zoo, Museum of Natural Nistory and Observatory are all located near one another in the Paseo del Bosque.
RepÃºblica de los NiÃ±os
The RepÃºblica de los NiÃ±os (Children's Republic) is a theme park outside of downtown La Plata in the neighborhood of Gonnet. It is a 130 acre park dedicated to children. There is a 1.4 mile road/track around the park where many people run and bike daily. There is a miniature town in the middle of the park built in a fantasy story book fashion scaled for children.
Construction on the RepÃºblica began in 1949 when 1600 workers worked for 2 years to open the park on November 26, 1951. It was the largest enterprise specifically for children in its day. It is also considered Latin America's first theme park.
The park has a dual purpose. First is to create a place of leisure surrounded by a world of dreams and children's stories. Secondly it is to teach children how to exercise their rights and obligations as responsible citizens in a democratic society.
The first of the goals is accomplished by having a fairy-tale town that is scaled for children. There are restaurants and play areas in the city. Weekly activities include plays, boat rides, sports activities and a large swimming pool. The second goal is realized by teaching children how government works through scale models of different houses of government and the judicial system. There is even a working bank in the park to teach children about the banking process. They teach workshops on farming as well.
Many other historical and important sights are available to visitors of the city of La Plata, Argentina.