Caracas - Modernism Adrift

Villa Monzeglio, Bello Monte, Caracas

Villa Monzeglio, Bello Monte, Caracas

On many occasions, the citizens of Caracas fail to notice the architectural gems that build up our metropolis. Our eyes, focused on insecurity and food shortages are not aware that, behind the shantytowns and layers of grime and visual pollution, Caracas has a spectrum of splendid buildings stalked by decay.

A few days ago, I went to a wedding at the Church of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the neighborhood of Las Mercedes. To the horror of my eyes, across the street, a picturesque house of neo-Basque style was being demolished to make way for "progress." Las Mercedes is one of the few flat areas of Caracas and therefore it is doomed to become a commercial area. That is why the vast majority of suburban homes in the area have disappeared to make way for all types of businesses. Unfortunately, there is no law or any regulation on aesthetics and the area grows disorganized, smothered in tacky kitsch and vulgar architecture (the so-called novelty architecture): signs, architectural modifications, and aesthetic abnormalities. Las Mercedes has become a great visual dump.

Humboldt Building, Altamira, Caracas

Humboldt Building, Altamira, Caracas

Las Mercedes requires an architectural law urgently. Not only to control the panorama and prevent the further proliferation of kitsch, but also to protect the latest architectural gems in the area. That neo-Basque house was demolished and removed without any trace beyond memory and many other buildings in the area could end up with the same fate. Las Mercedes has other beautiful buildings worthy of protection such as various neo-Basque houses, dazzling buildings guarded by trees full of lush tropical vines and even the Polyclinic of Las Mercedes with its abstract bronze relief in the front area.

Canaima Building, Chacao, Caracas

Canaima Building, Chacao, Caracas

Throughout Caracas, there are unprotected architectural gems: The plethora of styles of Bello Monte, the buildings of Altamira and Los Palos Grandes, the houses of San Román, the futuristic Villa Monzeglio, the buildings in Los Chaguaramos and Santa Monica, the Altolar and Canaima building, the Jirajara house in Santa Paula, the Zena building, the old houses of Valle Arriba, the Art Deco of El Paraiso, the nostalgic buildings of San Bernardino and many others. All these gems live in the constant threat of the future, of destruction. Architecture not only has the highest aesthetic, historical, and cultural value of our country but it has the memories of all the people in Caracas. These memory boxes fiercely scream the country's history in their exquisite facades and urgently need a national law on architectural protection; something like a native National Register of Historic Places that would not only protect the buildings but would raise them culturally and would increase their monetary value. Thus, a culture of preservation and cultural admiration in the Venezuelans would be created. One of the largest samples of modern architecture of the twentieth century, my dear Caracas, could quickly disappear to give way to an unrecognizable city. Caracas is a living museum of architecture and its preservation is needed with urgency.

Altolar Building, Bello Monte, Caracas

Altolar Building, Bello Monte, Caracas

Altolar Building's tropical hallways. 

Altolar Building's tropical hallways.