When we visited here during our city tour, we were interested by it, so we decided to join the tour of the building.
Arriving there on time, we found a small female guide wearing a brimmed hat and a pair of braced trousers with 17-18 tourists standing around her.
This building was completed in 1923 and funded by Luis Barolo, an Italian who made loads of money through his textile business, and designed by Mario Paranti, another Italian.
As we learned during the city tour, this building was designed with the theme of “The Divine Comedy” of Dante Alighieri.
For example, the reason the height is 100 metres is that “The Divine Comedy” is made up of 100 cantos.
The basement and the ground floor represent Hell, the 1st to the 14th floors represent Purgatory, and the 15th to the 22nd, the top floor, represent Heaven.
In addition to “The Divine Comedy”, because Dante, Barolo and Paranti were all members of the Freemasons, there are signs related to this fraternal organisation here and there; on the floor and at the lift, for example.
The lifts are all old fashioned and quaint with folding metal doors and, because they talked a lot about Hell and Heaven, I remembered the old film Angel Heart (1987).
On the ground floor in Hell, there were flowery patterns on the floor made of glass.
In the past, they used to light them up from below, which made them look eerie as if they were burning.
The statues of dragons and other strange animals on the wall were all made in pairs, male and female.
After learning about Hell, we went up in the lift to Purgatory on the 4th floor.
Here there was an opening where we could look down upon Hell and the guide continued her explanation.
This building was built as an office building at first and there were originally 398 rooms.
The reason there is not a 1st or a 2nd floor is that Mr. Barolo was planning to use these floors himself and he made a special lift coming up from the basement so that he would not have to meet anyone.
Unfortunately, he died before the completion of this building.
In this building, there are no facilities for gas and hot water, so nobody can live here.
The toilets are all situated outside of the rooms in the common areas.
Currently, about 900 people work here and, during our visit, we saw many ordinary people coming and going.
One office room is very small, so in the past, some companies bought two or more rooms and joined them together. However, because this building was listed as a cultural property in the 1990s, that is no longer allowed.
My husband asked if the rent is higher if the room is nearer to Heaven, and the answer was yes.
The rent is apparently 4,000 – 18,000 pesos (£132.50 – £600, €150.20 – €676, $178 – $809) per month, which is really cheap, but the service charge is expensive because of the high maintenance fees.
She pointed out a sign near the lift, which said ‘Don’t throw things from the windows and don’t spit’.
According to her, around the time that this building was built, chewing tobacco was very popular and everybody was spitting everywhere.