Venezuela is a South American country located between Colombia and Guyana, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. Most observers divide Venezuela into four distinct regions: the northwest Maracaibo lowlands, the northern mountains running in a broad east-west arc from the Colombian border along the Caribbean Sea, the middle Orinoco plains, and the southeast rank heavily dissected Guiana highlands.

Venezuela is undoubtedly an interesting place to visit because of its many contrasts, including those in its culture, society, and architecture. The country’s architectural heritage is extensive, but its capital, Caracas, stands out for the concentration of modern and postmodern structures supported by Venezuela’s oil wealth. The capital of the country is a metropolis with ambitious urban and architectural plans that are only sometimes realised. Without a doubt, it is a fascinating country for architecture enthusiasts.

User-Friendly Approach

The Palacio de Justicia de Caracas is a government complex in Caracas, Venezuela, straddling Avenida Bolivar. It is home to several courtrooms and judicial institutions that serve the metropolitan area. It was designed in 1983 by Carlos Gómez de Llarena and became operational in 2004.

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Palacio de Justicia de Caracas_©Erik Cleves Kristensen

The primary objective of the concepts proposed by architect Carlos Gómez de Llarena in 1983 was to construct a pedestrian area over the Avenue Bolvar motorway. By renovating the Centro Simón Bolvar and constructing law courts and administrative buildings on either side of the highway, he was able to not only complete the complex with a bridge but also add galleries, parks, and recreational places, opening up new possibilities for the city. The Palacio itself was designed as two five-story concrete towers. A 5,000 m2 (54,000 sq ft) plaza was included in a square metal frame covered by a vaulted space of 140,000 m2 (1,500,000 sq ft). The two structures, which are divided by the Plaza de la Justicia, are the Edificio Sur (South Building) or Cruz Verde and the Edificio Norte (North Building) or Camejo.

Functionalism

The Centro Simón Bolvar Buildings TCSB, known colloquially as the Towers of Silence, are a pair of 32-story towers totalling 103 metres in height in Caracas, Venezuela’s El Silencio sector. The TCSB was completed during Marcos Pérez Jiménez’s administration and opened to the public on December 6, 1954.

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Centro-Simón-Bolívar_©Julio César Mesa

The TCSB is an example of functionalist architecture that incorporates artistic pieces within the structure. When it was first developed, it was a symbol of the Venezuelan national identity, of a country rising from its rural and petroleum-based economies and at the start of its industrialisation. The TCSB is thus enforced as a simple aesthetic emblem of modernity and the country’s long-term progress.

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Centro-Simón-Bolívar_©Iván González Viso, Federico Vegas, María Isabel Peña

The TCSB is elevated above the ground on stilts, allowing the public to walk beneath it unhindered. The building’s symmetry is strict, with the twin towers rising from two parallel wings containing a network of plazas, walkways, porches, doors, commercial sections, and underground parking; Bolivar Avenue runs beneath.

The towers maintained the status of Venezuela’s tallest twin buildings until the construction of the towers of the Parque Central Complex along the same road in Caracas.

Iconic Architecture

El Helicoide was built in South-Central Caracas on a rocky hill that was initially razed into seven levels in the shape of a helicoidal, or spiral. The moulded hill was then poured with concrete, resulting in two interlocked spirals with two and a half miles of automobile ramps where cars could park in front of their preferred retailers. The 645,834-square-foot structure would have housed 300 upmarket retailers, eight cinemas, a hotel, and a heliport.

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Construction of El Helicoide© Proyecto Helicoide

El Helicoide would have cost $10 million (equal to $90 million now) and included cutting-edge technology such as closed television channels and high-speed custom-built Austrian elevators that never made it out of their boxes and were eventually plundered. Its geodesic dome, the first influenced by Buckminster Fuller‘s iconic blueprint to be put outside the United States, was kept for 20 years before being installed in one of the building’s many failed recovery initiatives.

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Arial view of El Helicoide© Ricardo Rodríguez Boades

El Helicoide’s daring size and form were widely admired as a symbol of an ultra-modern Caracas and a rapidly developing Venezuela: the structure was prominently featured in MoMA‘s 1961 Roads exhibition on highways as a new form of architecture (with El Helicoide originally combining transportation with an exhibition and commercial centre). It appeared on the covers of major international magazines.

World – Heritage by UNESCO

During the colonial period, Simon Bolivar built the main campus of the Universidad Central de Venezuela in Caracas, Venezuela, South America. The complex, which spans 164,203 hectares, features architectural and modern art treasures erected between 1940 and 1960 to architect Carlos Ral Villanueva’s design and the Botanical Garden. The University incorporates many buildings, art, and nature into an articulated ensemble, resulting in an open and dynamic area where art forms become integral to the lived place.

In the utilisation of reinforced concrete, the forms and structures reflect their time’s spirit and technological development. The Aula Magna houses Alexander Calder’s ‘Clouds,’ the Olympic Stadium, and the Covered Plaza are significant architectural structures.

Universidad Central de Venezuela_©Jorge Andrés Paparoni Bruzual

The complex is a modern interpretation of urban and architectural principles and traditions, with patios and latticed windows as an acceptable answer for its tropical setting.

The property is divided into multiple environments; the northern part is a Botanical Garden, with substantial sports facilities to the east, west, and south. The campus is divided into several sections by Faculty and School, including Sciences, Architecture, Humanities, and Medicine. The Tierra de Nadie — green space and woods related to no discipline — and the Plaza Cubierta complex of communal buildings and the named museum of permanent modern art features merge in the heart of the campus.

The Caracas Botanical Garden, situated on campus, includes various exotic plants. It has exhibited species from Central and South America, Africa, and Asia throughout its existence. The Botanical Garden has held approximately 2,500 plants, representing over 200 species, half indigenous to the country. The Venezuela Lagoon is the largest body of water on campus, and it is built like the country it is named after.

Despite natural and intentional decay, the complex remains a Venezuelan monument and a model of design and planning. It was added to the World Monuments Fund’s list of extraordinary preservation efforts in 2010 and 2014.

References:

Centre, U.N.E.S.C.O.W.H.  Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas, UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/986/ (Accessed: December 19, 2022).

Olalquiaga, C. (2019) El Helicoide: The futuristic wonder that now sums up Venezuela’s spiral into despair, CNN. Cable News Network. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/helicoide-venezuela-olalquiaga-intl/index.html (Accessed: December 19, 2022).

University City of Caracas (2022) Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_City_of_Caracas (Accessed: December 19, 2022). 

Palacio de Justicia de Caracas (2022) Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palacio_de_Justicia_de_Caracas (Accessed: December 19, 2022). 

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An architecture student, always looking for something new by being a part of everything creative to express herself in every form. Being heard and able to deliver a great word has always been her bent. An old soul who believes that a conversation about changing for the better can accomplish a lot.

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