Pictured: Claudio Stamato & Andrés Felipe Durán
On the penultimate day of my trip to Argentina, the forecast called for rain. I still had a lot left to see in Buenos Aires and flirted with the idea of altogether skipping what my itinerary called a “botanical garden tour and lunch.” At this point, excusing myself seemed almost mutinous and so I climbed on the tour bus ready to see another day flitter away.
Our bus took us the short ride to Tigre, located on the Panará Delta about 17 miles north of the city, and dropped us off at a waiting Sturla water taxi. From there, we zipped through a steady stream of motor boat traffic before docking at one of the many posh homes set along the water’s edge. Here we were greeted by Claudio Stamato and Andrés Felipe Durán, an attractive, casually dressed couple, and the forces behind Isla El Descanso.
El Descanso began as a summerhouse, purchased on four acres of land by Stamato more than 20 years ago with small parcels of surrounding land added over time. Today, at 12 acres, El Descanso provides visitors (Madonna, The Edge from U2, and Alejandro Sanz among them) a lush respite from the city with its balance of natural landscape and artistically designed gardens. Their current project: a maze fashioned from planted bamboo.
Numerous works of outdoor sculpture — like The Harmony Chairs by Pablo Reinoso, a dozen sculpted seats that rise up out of the earth like licorice forks or, a monolith by Maria Orensanz with “tenemos el poder de elegir” (“we have the power of choice”) in cut out — have been scattered amongst the abundant flora and fauna. And each area of the landscape connects to the next through a series of bridges.
“The first bridge we named was ‘The Angel of Love,’ since to us love is that keeps us alive,” noted Durán. “Then, as the other bridges were built, we were naming them with human values and virtues that we consider important in our lives, such as acceptance and friendship.” For those blessed by the love angel, there is also a non-denominational chapel at El Descanso where wedding ceremonies have been performed for all types of couples.
“It is a place we love to share with friends, family, anyone that appreciates plants and art,” said Stamato. “A few years ago we celebrated a birthday party of a friend and when he left he wrote this phrase for us, ‘At El Descanso those who feel unwell, arise; those who feel well, empower it; those who are doubtful, awaken.’”