You know how most buildings have a lot of those straight lines everywhere? If there’s a wall, it’s straight. Windows – same thing. Sure, every once and a while you’ll run across a diagonal line, or the occasional rounded edge of a curve, but by and large straight lines and right angles make up the bulk of modern architecture. But in the sun-kissed region of Uruguay’s resort haven of Punta del Este, there’s a building that mocks such vertical/horizontal symmetry with every fiber of its construction. You can even spend the night there, too. It’s called Casapueblo, and if you’re a lover of all things non-conformist you’ll find yourself right at home.
Built by Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró as a summer home, this sprawling whitewashed structure of anything but straight lines now serves as a hotel, art gallery and point of interest for visitors to the area. A maze of lopsided and dream-like walkways evoke images of Santorini – that is, if you visited the Greek Island and decided to immediately drop acid. I’m pretty sure my three-year-old niece drew a picture that now hangs on the fridge which closely resembles its architecture. And if The Lorax ever decided to visit Uruguay, you can be sure that this is where he’d stay.
The Casapueblo, for all it’s quirkiness, is highly rated as a hotel. With unique rooms that each bear a different name and commanding views of the South Atlantic, it has plenty of appeal beyond just the surreal aesthetics. While my visit there was strictly for the architecture, I can’t deny that I lamented not being about to fully explore every abstract nook and cranny at the more leisurely pace of a paying guest. It was here that I truly appreciated that straight lines are highly overrated, and its a lesson I haven’t forgotten.
Casapueblo is just a few miles outside the resort town of Punta del Este, situated on a high bluff called Punta Ballena. Punta del Este is a happening beach town, and if there were a such thing as the Uruguayan Riviera, I suppose this would be it. The inviting green water attracts locals and jet-setters alike, and the silhouette of smaller-class cruise ships frequently surround the peninsula. Punta del Este is also about a 1.5 hour drive east from the capital Montevideo, and is the most famous of numerous beach towns that line the Rio de la Plata to where it meets the Atlantic.
One of the basic precepts of leisure travel is the desire to see something different; something you can’t experience at home. I can sincerely assure you that unless you live in a Dr. Seuss book, you are unlikely to see any building even remotely resembling Casapueblo. That splash of diversity along with a world-class beach destination nearby is enough to inspire anyone to leave the straight and narrow. So bring your camera, swimsuit and leave your protractors at home. There be curves ahead, and that is what makes it worth visiting.