Colon Theater. Textile advice to the Master Plan of the Teatro Colón. 2006-2008

The author, in a box at the Teatro Colón. On the left of the image, the Language of Colors catalogue. In his right hand, the sample that we see photographed below.

Sample of the applications that adorn the curtains of each box, formed with a viscose base, an artificial fiber of vegetable origin. The old ones were made with a cotton velvet, now prohibited for not being fire retardant. Photography: Nicolas Vega.

Cut from damask fabric woven in Naples, Italy, faithfully reproducing the design of the original version. Photography: Nicolas Vega.

German Carvajal Casteran

Architect graduated from the University of Buenos Aires, he was a professor in the Chair of Visual Systems I and II of Arch. César Jannello, tenured professor of Morphology in the architecture career of the Torcuato di Tella University and founding partner and president of DarA (Decoradores Argentinos Asociados) and his Foundation, among different activities related to his profession.

He represented Argentina before CECAL (Center for Color Studies for Latin America), and was a member and vice president of the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Museum of Modern Art Association.

Among other distinctions, he received the La Nación Award for decorators over 35 years of age at Casa Foa 1994, Mention at Casa Foa 1996, Mercedes Malbrán de Campos Award at Casa FOA 2001 for Architecture and Interior Design, and the Windows to the Future Award for Architecture Cayc-Parex-Klaukol for Merit in 2011.

In 2005, he published Design as Poetics, the Thought of César Jannello, under the auspices of the National Academy of Fine Arts and the Graham Foundation of Chicago.

He was in charge, as an advisor, of the definition of all the textiles in the Teatro Colón room on the occasion of the refurbishment carried out by the Master Plan. Committed to architectural heritage, he works in different public and non-governmental spheres.

He works independently on projects and construction management for equipment and interior design in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Peru.

By Germán Carvajal *

The work of an interior designer, according to the American Society of Interior Designers consists of "The identification, investigation and creative resolution of the problems of the interior environment". This motto has guided me in every professional challenge and it has also been the one that led me to accept Hilario's hospitality to give testimony of my intervention in the replacement of the textiles of the Sala del Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires between November 2006 and November 2007, at the request of my friend Enrique Salvatierra and Esther Galante, my adventure partner on that occasion. To them was added the invitation of Teresa de Anchorena to present on the subject in the Course "History and Geography of the Teatro Colón", which is being developed at this moment.

I accepted the designation as “textile advisor” of the Teatro Colón Master Plan the second time it was proposed to me on behalf of Architect Silvia Fajre, then Minister of Culture of the City. She had declined a previous offer because she had been a party to the ongoing controversy over the proposed task. Teresa de Anchorena, legislator and member of the National Commission of Monuments, Places and Historical Assets (CNMLBH) questioned the replacement of the room's textiles, which the specification sheet required, and advocated the restoration and reuse of the originals ; she had consulted me about it. [1] My inquiries about the state of what exists for the next fifty years advised against this proposal, so I decided to accept the following invitation with that position taken. It would not be within my competence to modify the specifications already approved, tendered and awarded, nor any executive attribution. My role would be that of an external consultant. Only a political decision, not a technical one, could have altered this state of affairs and that is what happened when the Macri management made the decision not to reproduce the formidable mouth curtain of 1931, as required by the tender, and to compete for a new design. Decision that I will analyze in the May issue of the Hilario digital magazine.

The controversy surrounding the path chosen by the Master Plan was addressed by Sol Dellepiane in D&D magazine, in its December 2007 issue: “Not everyone agrees on the decisions that have been made regarding the historic textiles in the Main Room. The Legislature's Special Commission for Architectural and Landscape Heritage has presented two reports in which it is in favor of preserving pieces such as the curtain and box curtains, both for their aesthetic and cultural value and for their impact on the venue acoustics. According to these writings, "the textiles occupy a prominent place, however, they do not receive the same treatment as the other ornamental elements of the room, for which the conservative restoration criterion is applied." Weighty voices endorse the position of this Commission, whose most visible exponent is Buenos Aires Deputy Teresa Anchorena, a staunch defender of the cultural heritage of Argentines. On the one hand, Theater workers have sent two letters to the current Head of Government advocating in favor of the restoration and offering to carry out the task in a timely manner.

In monumental buildings, maintenance is always meager, and major interventions occur every 50 or 100 years, as in this case. Such a practice advises that, when the political decision to make an effort is reached, the prudent thing to do is to do so anticipating that it will be sustained for the same period of time. In the middle of the debate on the path to follow, the curious thing about the case is that from both positions they advocated said effort and the necessary investment, and all proclaimed the maintenance of "Colón quality" as a standard of measurement. In this context I started my task.

As soon as I signed a first report on the existing samples available, I received a call from Esther Galante, a well-known textile businesswoman, owner of the Ronchamp house, who was hesitating to accept textile advice for San José, the winning company. Because of her suitability and her unreflective enthusiasm, I insisted that she accept to have a suitable interlocutor in the contractor, and thus an unexpected team was formed.

The market and textile production in Argentina

For the provision of textiles for the restoration and technological updating of the Teatro Colón, the construction management qualified as acceptable only fabrics, trimmings and labor from those countries that have been and continue to be the production centers for decoration of the most quality in the world -he was referring to Italy, France and Germany-, custodians of a tradition of centuries, translated into the wealth of alternatives in yarns, dyes and technology, and in the excellence of those textile technicians who produce the goods offered by the most internationally recognized brands.

This is not a strength that the Argentine textile industry boasts, protected from all competition and oriented towards standardized production for a low-demand mass market. In our environment the productive tradition of decorative art is of recent date, and textiles do not have a leading role in it. Those of greater sophistication and quality have traditionally been provided by the European market, as in the case at hand.

Natural silk is not produced in Argentina, nor viscose (artificial recovery of cellulose and cotton), nor metallic threads of interfine gold, nor linen fiber, nor polyester with the Trevira CS trademark, essential for fire-retardant qualification, nor other similar yarn that satisfies her. These restrictions entail limitations on complementary industries, such as dyeing, spinning, and weaving. Cotton fiber spinning does not go beyond count 48/1 Ne, which bypasses all finer counts up to 120/1 Ne. The English cottons produced by Liberty, for example, are woven with 60/1 count yarn. The thinner yarns produce higher quality fabrics, which do not find here the demand that sustains or justifies the necessary investments. What naturally limits the possibilities of experimentation and practice in the training of artists, craftsmen and technicians.


International flame retardant prevention standards for the various fibers stood in the way of an exact reproduction of the original genres. Cotton, interdict, silk and wool questioned, and for curtains and curtains, only Trevira CS, a specifically fire-retardant polyester fiber, would be accepted. This required verifying the benefits of this new fiber in texture, color and shine; as well as identify the different possible qualified suppliers.