Sunday, 13 February 2011

Buenos Aires Buses

The buses in Buenos Aires are roaring great works of art. Each numbered route has its own graphic identity - made up of a particular typeface, colour combinations and patterns. The number 29 has a great big 29 painted on the front in a sloping stylised font, white on a blue background. Down the sides blue, red, white and yellow stripes are the background for elaborate text detailing the route the bus takes. The big capital letters are filled in with shiny hologram effect stickers. The visual impact of all these elements combined is quite astonishing. And joyful! As if to remind us that buses aren't just metal boxes carting people around the city, they are giant, moving, ever-changing, interactive sculptures, where strangers are brought together, sit close, get chatting, overhear each others conversations.
The number 39 is brown and white, with round white letters. The number 60 is yellow with red and black stripes, The 64 blue with curving red and white stripes. I could go on.
One day we took the number 29 from La Boca to Palermo, crossing the city from south to north. We got on near the beginning of the route, so got good seats, and watched 45 minutes of a day in the life of a Buenos Aires bus. The interior is nearly as good as the exterior. The driver's cab is bedecked with rear view mirrors, leaving not a corner of the bus out of his sight. The mirrors are decorated, their edges bevelled with geometric floral patterns, Romany caravan style. This kitsch homely decoration makes for a great combination with the otherwise fairly utilitarian bus interior.