Little is known about Caracas, the capital of Venezuela which has been beset with a host of problems, chief amongst which are protests spilling into public spaces and violent political unrest. The deep-seated division of society into poor and wealthy is just as commonplace a feature as the grandiose buildings bequeathed by modernity.
Caracas is primarily a city of contrasts which is reflected within the contours of the country itself: although the oil reserves in Venezuela are the largest in the world, more than 75 per cent of its population live below the poverty level. This architectural guide thus illustrates the complexity of a Latin American city founded in 1567 which, however, forges a coherent identity with the Ávila mountain range and the coastline, where different scales, geographies, architectural styles and natural and urban landscapes converge. This title outlines the city’s history with reference to its most striking architecture dating from approximately 1600 up to the present day, including the Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas which was designed single-handedly by Carlos Raúl Villanueva between 1940 and 1960.
Architecture and urban spaces found in ten zones throughout Caracas are delineated, as well as those concepts propounded by architects and urban planning experts – such as Federico Vegas and María Isabel Peña – regarding future initiatives that could transform and enhance the city. The major exhibition charting Latin American architecture since 1945 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York led to a focus being placed on Latin America among architects, although knowledge about Caracas and Venezuela continues to be low. Architect Bernard Tschumi once stated that: “Long standing tensions between urbanisation and nature, informal and the formal economies and the needs and interests of regional infrastructure and local neighbourhoods [...] are now more acute than ever.” Although this statement may be traced back to roughly one decade ago, it, too, continues to be more relevant than ever.