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Carlos Ral Villanueva

Carlos Ral Villanueva (London, May 30, 1900 Caracas, August 16, 1975) was the most prominent
Venezuelan architect of the 20th century and one of the
great Modernists. Villanueva went for the rst time to
Venezuela when he was 28 years old. He played a major
role in the development and modernization of Caracas,
Maracay and other cities across the country. Among
his most important works are El Silencio Redevelopment
which included 7 797 apartments and 207 shop premises
and the Ciudad Universitaria, the main campus of the
Central University of Venezuela, which is considered a
masterpiece of modern city planning, architecture and
art. The Campus was declared World Heritage Site by
UNESCO in the year 2000.

1929 Villanueva returned to Venezuela and started working in the Ministry of Public Works as Director of Buildings and Ornamental Constructions.

2 First Modernism (1929-1944)


After gaining some experience in France and the United
States, Villanueva arrives in Venezuela full of enthusiasm and ideas; in particular, thanks to the inuence of
his close friend Auguste Perret. Both men shared a profound conviction that architecture was the art of organizing space. Consequently, Villanueva sees himself as
a man of action and will work countless hours to fulll
his passion. His rst jobs were on the city of Maracay,
a city which became the de facto capital of the country
under General Juan Vicente Gmez. He received his rst
important assignment in 1929: the Hotel Jardn. In his
reform of the building it was possible to already observe
some features that will become common in his designs.
Among them were the use of covered galleries to provide protection from the weather and the use of interior
courtyards and gardens to harmonize built and unbuilt
spaces. On January 28, 1933, he married Margot Arismendi Amengual, a member of the prominent Venezuelan Arismendi family, and had four children with her.

Early life and education (19001928)

Villanueva was born in the city of London on May 30,


1900. He was the son of Carlos Antonio Villanueva and
Paulina Astoul from a family originally from Valencia,
Spain who had settled in Venezuela in the 18th century. His father was sent as an envoy from Venezuela
to the Exposition Universelle of 1889 in Paris where he
met Paulina Astoul and married her in 1893. A few
years later, in 1896, he was appointed Consul General
of Venezuela in England by the government of Joaqun
Crespo. Carlos Ral was born four years later near the
Venezuelan Consulate and was the youngest of the ve
children of the family. In the following years his family moved back to Paris, where he received his basic
schooling at the Lyce Condorcet. Later on he moved
with his family to Mlaga, Spain, until 1919 when he returned to Paris. In 1922, following the footsteps of his
brother Marcel, Carlos Ral was admitted to the Second
Class of the Department of Architecture of the cole
des Beaux-Arts and entered the workshop of Gabriel
Hraud. In 1925 he entered the First Class of the Department of Architecture and worked closely with Len
Joseph Madeline. During that time he collaborated on
a project for a Htel d'ambassade a construire dans un
pays d'Extreme Orient with another student of Hrauds
workshop, Roger-Leopold Hummel, which won the Second prize of the Grand Prix de Rome in 1928. On June
6 of the same year, he received his Architecture degree
and traveled for the rst time to Venezuela and the United
States where he joined the architectural rm Guilbert and
Betelle with his brother in Newark, New Jersey. Yet in

His rst important commission came in 1935 with the


project to build the Museum of Fine Arts of Caracas.
This project allow him to create a space for the exhibition
of art, one of his most important passions. Already at this
time his devotion to the artistic vangards of the century
could be seen in his library, where his large collection
of books on architecture was complemented by those on
art. It was also during this time that he met the sculptor
Francisco Narvez with whom he collaborated in the Museum of Fine Arts as well as in a series of other important
projects like the Natural Science Museum"(19361939)
and the Gran Colombia School (19391942) which became Villanuevas rst attempt to bring into fruition the
guiding principle of career: the synthesis of the arts. The
buildings also showed Villanuevas application of some of
the most dening ideas of modern architecture like the
simplication of form and the importance given to functionality.
1

Ciudad
1970)

Universitaria

CIUDAD UNIVERSITARIA (1944-1970)

(1944- 3.1 Artists who contributed in the Project

Main article: Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas


The Campus and buildings of the Universidad Central de

L'Amphion (Henri Laurens) and Bimural (Fernand Lger) at the


Covered Plaza of the Ciudad Universitaria

View of the Ciudad Universitaria from the library.

Shadows in the hall in front of the Aula Magna at the Ciudad


Universitaria
Central Library

Jean Arp

Venezuela are considered to be Villanuevas masterwork.


Built on the site of the old Hacienda Ibarra - which originally belonged to Simon Bolvar's family - and connected
to the new city center around Plaza Venezuela, the project
meant a massive undertaking of both urban planning and
architectural design. The administration of Isaas Medina Angarita bought the Hacienda Ibarra in 1942 in order to give the University a larger location than the San
Francisco Covent, giving Villanueva a unique opportunity to applied his conscious integration of art and architecture on a grand scale. This vast urban complex of
about 2 square kilometres includes a total of 40 buildings
and it remains one of the most successful applications
of Modern Architecture in Latin America. Villanueva
worked closely with all the artists who contributed with
their oeuvres and personally supervised the project for
over 25 years until the late 60s when his deteriorating
health forced him to leave some buildings in the design
stage.

Andr Bloc
Alexander Calder
Wifredo Lam
Henri Laurens
Fernand Lger
Baltasar Lobo
Antoine Pevsner
Sophie Taeuber-Arp
Victor Vasarely
Miguel Arroyo
Armando Barrios
Omar Carreo

5.2

1930s

Carlos Gonzlez Bogen


Pedro Len Castro
Mateo Manaure
Francisco Narvez
Pascual Navarro
Alirio Oramas
Alejandro Otero
Hctor Poleo
Braulio Salazar

La Maestranza Bullring

Jess-Rafael Soto
Vctor Valera
Oswaldo Vigas

Quotations

4.1

Synthesis of the arts

Museum of Fine Arts

5.2 1930s
Sports Club (Maracay, 1930)
Plaza Bolvar (Maracay, 19301935)
La Maestranza Bullring (Maracay, 19311932)
Bolivarian Museum (Caracas, 1931)
Cloud Shepherd (Hans Arp) and Mural (Mateo Manaure) at the
Ciudad Universitaria

In 1954, Villanueva described the guiding principle behind the Ciudad Universitaria in the following way:

Works

5.1

1920s

Banco Obrero and Banco Agrcola y Pecuario


(Maracay, 1929); (currently the Museum of Anthropology and History)
Hotel Jardn (Maracay, 19291930); (currently the
Aragua State House)

Mental Hospital (Caracas, 19311933)


Plaza Carabobo (Caracas, 1934)
Museum of Fine Arts (Caracas, 19351938)
Museum of Natural Sciences (Caracas, 19341935)
Venezuelan Pavilion at the Paris Exposition (Paris,
France, 1937 - Demolished)
Plaza Simn Bolvar (Valparaso, Chile, 1938)
Los Rosales and El Prado Residential States (Caracas, 19381940)
Gran Colombia School (Caracas, 19391942); (currently the Francisco Pimentel School).

5.3

1940s

REFERENCES

Lomas de Pro Patria (Caracas, 1954)


Cotiza Housing Estate (Caracas, 1954)
Artigas Residential Estate (Caracas, 19541955)
La Vega Residential Estate (Caracas, 1955)
23 de Enero Development (Caracas, 19551957)
Simn Rodrguez Development (Caracas, 1956)
Altos de Curia Residential Estate (Caracas, 1954)
School of Petroleum Engineering (Maracaibo,
1956)

Ciudad Universitaria

Headquarters of the Venezuelan Chamber of Commerce (Caracas, 1940)


Plaza La Concordia (1940)
Buena Vista Preorientation Boarding School (Los
Teques, 19401942)
Passenger Terminal (Valera, 19411942)
El Silencio Redevelopment (Caracas, 19411945)
Radio Communications Building (Caracas, 1943)
General Rafael Urdaneta Development (Maracaibo,
1943)
Unidad Vacacional Los Caracas (1944)
Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas - Campus of the
Central University of Venezuela (19441970)
Plaza Rafael Urdaneta (Caracas, 1945)
University Hospital (Caracas, 1945)

Jess Soto Museum

5.5 1960s
La Salle Foundation (Caracas, 19611962)
Caomita House (Caracas, 1962)
House for Alejandro Otero (San Antonio de Los Altos, 1965)

Anatomical Institute (Caracas, 1945)

Plaza Estrella Building (Caracas, 1964)

Rafael Urbaneta School (Maracaibo, 19451946)

Venezuelan Pavilion for the Montreal Expo (Montreal, Canada, 1967)

El Hipdromo Development (Maracay, 1946)


Las Delicias Neighborhood Unit (Maracay, 1948
1952)

5.6 1970s
Jess Soto Museum (Ciudad Bolvar, 1970)

5.4

1950s

Hacienda La Pimpera House (Barlovento, 1954)


Diego de Losada Development (Caracas, 1954)
Atlntico Norte Development (Caracas, 1954
1955)

6 References
Carlos Ral Villanueva (1980), Textos escogidos.
Caracas : Universidad Central de Venezuela, Facultad de Arquitectura y Urbanismo.

External links
Villanueva Foundation - Ocial Website
Dedicated to the Centenary of his birth (Spanish)
Central University of Venezuela website dedicated
to his life and Works (Spanish)
UNESCO World Heritage website on the Ciudad
Universitaria de Caracas
Exhibition on the Covered Plaza by the Architectural Association, London

8 TEXT AND IMAGE SOURCES, CONTRIBUTORS, AND LICENSES

Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses

8.1

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