Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas Venezuela

The University City of Caracas is an outstanding example, and one of the best in the world, of the modern urban, architectural and artistic concepts of the early 20th century. It therefore illustrates in an excellent way this recent but already significant period in human history. The urban and architectural spaces created by Carlos Raúl Villanueva in association with the works of the artists who participated in the 'integration of the arts' are of incomparable quality and character. The essence of the work is in the message and the aesthetic emotion that its authors have managed to transmit.

Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas Venezuela
Continent: South America
Country: Venezuela
Category: Cultural
Criterion: (I)(IV)
Date of Inscription: 2000

Origin of the Central University of Venezuela

The origin of the Central University of Venezuela was the foundation of the Royal and Pontifical University by a decree of Philip V in 1721, promulgated during the Spanish colonial period. It operated within the Santa Rosa Seminary. In 1856 it became independent of the seminary and was transferred to the former San Francisco Convent. The university soon started growing and occupied other buildings outside the convent. This dispersal caused problems for its work and so it was decided to concentrate the university in a new ensemble, a campus in the outskirts of Caracas.

Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas

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Studies for the new university campus began in 1942. In the following year a Coordinating Commission was created, composed of Dr Armando Vegas as coordinator and Carlos Raúl Villanueva as planner. Villanueva, founder and professor of the Faculty of Architecture, had participated in a commission sent to study the university campus of Bogotá, and after this experience he emerged as the principal planner-architect of the new team. Work started on the first buildings in 1945.

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The 1949 revised plan produced the first important changes in the urban layout: Villanueva abandoned the symmetrical disposition of the structures. His project is characterized by the application of modern technology, the audacity of the forms, and the use of bare concrete structures, conceived as sculptures. It led to the creation of a complex, open and integrated space which was at the same time protected from light and heat. Since the death of Villanueva there have been various modifications, including new buildings designed by Gorka Dorronsoro, who was one of the young collaborators of Villanueva.

The architecture of the university involves the use of spatial elements that have been extracted from Venezuelan colonial architecture, such as bright colours, latticed windows for ventilation, and internal gardens of copious tropical vegetation. It constitutes an outstanding example in a small enclosed space of a utopian world reflecting that time and expressing the quality of modern urbanism, vegetation joined with the use of new materials and modern aesthetics.

The University City, an integral part of the modern city of Caracas, is articulated through a zoning scheme; there are several groups that are identified with the unity of their functions: 1, cultural and administrative centre; 2, medicine; 3, engineering, economics, liberal arts and sciences; 4, residential units; 5, botany; 6, architecture; 7, sports; 8, industrial technology school; and 9, services. The campus includes a series of large buildings, in particular the faculties of Architecture, Economy, Pharmacy, and Dentistry, the Library and the Hospital. The most notable buildings are the Aula Magna, with the magnificent 'Clouds' of Alexander Calder, the Olympic Stadium, and the covered plaza.

The Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas is an example of outstanding quality representing the highest ideals and concepts of modern city planning, architecture and art in the mid-20th century. Its particular quality is in the skill of integrating new architectural forms and contemporary art into a spatial and environmental whole, satisfying the functional and ideological requirements of the institution.

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