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Eduardo Mazzeo


San Rafael, its last days

This photographic series talks about the dissappearance of what, in its moment, would be an icon of the hotel industry of Punta del Este and South America, Hotel San Rafael. Its demolition was done in the first semester of 2019 and it was in a state of abandonment for a many years.

Let´s review its evolution through the years briefly.

It was inaugurated in December 1948 (Punta del Este, Uruguay), a project by the renowned uruguayan architects De Los Campos, Puente, Tournier, a building with Tudor style.

It had 150 rooms, casino, boite and event rooms. There came to be 500 employees working there. Between the years 50s and 80s, a large part of the history of Punta del Este passed through its facilities. One of the halls housed 1,500 people and was the venue in 1967 for the Meeting of Presidents of the American Continent and also for OAS meetings.

Some of the celebrities that stayed there were, the North American presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía of Spain, Julio Iglesias, Raffaella Carrá, Carmen Maura, Christopher Lambert, Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, Niki Lauda, Omar Sharif, Joe Cocker, Rod Stewart, Billy Idol, Nelson Rockefeller, and “Che” Guevara, among others.

In the scenes we can observe the desolation produced by the double height curtains filled with dust, the halls that once hosted outstanding events and are now shaken by the last breeze that runs through these spaces, shortly there will be no insides.

The wrecking ball and the machinery that hits hard its façade produce a shocking noise that vanishes on the eastern air, removing its skin and revealing its skeleton, hundreds of stories escape from each room, sheltered for years behind the brick façade. Before our eyes we read the interior of the rooms that had Chilean laurel carpentry, English majolica and toilets, the slate of Portuguese origin.

A vertical section can be seen, which forms an abstract image loaded with twisted iron, broken pieces of concrete, bricks falling at the foot of its skeleton, torn curtains and carpets.

Each hit was followed by a column of dust, like ashes scattered in the wind. The site was left empty, waiting for a new project to take its place.

Eduardo Mazzeo, architect and photographer


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