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Polo champion Nacho Figueras at home with his prizewinning ponies

The Property Addict / Luxury Lifestyle

Apr 08 2017

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Outside Buenos Aires, Ignacio "Nacho" Figureas and Juan Ignacio Ramos design new stables for the polo player's 44 ponies

By Derek Blasberg For a serious art collector, one's home must double as a gallery, a sacred place to showcase prized possessions. For professional polo player Ignacio "Nacho" Figueras (long ranked among the top players worldwide), that rule applies to his recently built stables in the Argentinean city of General Rodri�guez, a 45-minute drive outside Buenos Aires. "These horses are our art collection!" he declares. The stables hold 44 world-class polo ponies"� which can fetch prices similar to Old Master paintings"�in a strikingly contemporary, environmentally conscious structure. "We wanted to create a place that was practical, yet as inspiring as an art museum." polo5 Beyond its singular purpose, Figueras's building is remarkable for its modern design sense and how seamlessly it interacts with the environment around it. With its grass-covered roof on which the ponies graze, unaware that their pens are just below them, the 38,750-square-foot structure is nearly unnoticeable to the naked eye. "Everything that we took from the earth to construct this building we put back," Figueras says proudly, noting that in aerial shots all that is visible is horses and greenery. polo1 One of Argentina's biggest exports is polo players: Buenos Aires boasts two polo fields in the city and hosts the Argentine Open, one of the most important events on the sport's annual calendar. "The Pampas are at and there's lots of land here, and the weather allows us to play year-round," Figueras explains. Captaining the Ralph Lauren"sponsored Black Watch Polo Team, as well as being a longtime model for Ralph Lauren (including several years as the face of its venerable Polo men's fragrances), takes Figueras to tournaments all over the world. But he always returns to Argentina to recharge and practice. "My favorite thing to do is sit on the stable roof at sunset with my friends and a bottle of wine," he says wistfully. "The staircase is like a sculpture, and when you're there you forget you're anywhere else." polo6 For the stables, Figueras enlisted the Argentinean architect Juan Ignacio Ramos to execute his grand vision. The two met at a tournament when Figueras was 20 and have been friends ever since"�"I remember him telling me how interesting he found The Prince by Machiavelli, which certainly caught my attention," Ramos says with a laugh. (They worked together on Figueras's nearby home in 2004 and have continued to collaborate.) "The concept was to build a sequence of beautiful spaces," Ramos explains. "The fact that it is built in exposed cast concrete made the construction process very delicate. Fortunately, we hired a builder who fell in love with the project and was obsessed with doing everything to perfection." polo3 Specifically, Figueras and Ramos drew inspiration from the work of three masters: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, "for the sharp lines in the design," Figueras notes; Luis Barraga�n, who inspired "the walls and the reflective pool"; and Tadao Ando, in the play between "light and concrete." They focused on three materials: concrete, wood, and iron. Figueras acquired the land for the stables in 2005, began construction in 2013, and moved the horses in three years later. "That's when the piece was really completed. Seeing the 44 horses' heads poking out of the 44 stalls was a great moment, to see our vision come true and our beloved horses in a place that few could dream about." How did he get the number 44? Simple: "There are four players on a polo team, and each needs more or less ten horses. And then four more, just in case." Among these, the stable houses Figueras's "American polo legends," the six champions that are the foundation of his breeding operation, Cria Yatay. polo7 In total, Figueras owns more than 30 acres and lives in a house close by"�a five-minute walk from the stables"�with his wife, Delfina, and their four children: Hilario, 17, Aurora, 12, Artemio, seven, and Alba, four. Delfina, remembers first meeting her husband at a polo match in Buenos Aires. "He was sitting in a gigantic stadium and I was climbing the stairs. I looked up and saw two big, brown eyes staring at me. That was it. After the match, I saw him chatting with my cousin and I told her I wanted to meet him, and she said he had come to ask the same thing about me. That was December 1997; we started dating in March 1998. And here we are." polo4 Figueras's favorite room in the stables is the tack room, which is filled with saddles, bridles, mallets, boots, helmets, trophies, and books. Thinking of the next generation, Figueras points out that everything must be meticulously maintained because there may be some new players around soon: "Hilario is already playing polo professionally in Palm Beach," Figueras says with a proud smile. "And we have a seven-year-old boy who wants to start playing too, so we may need some more stables any day now." Architectural Digest

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