The Watch

La Facultad de Arquitectura y Urbanismo, Universidad Central de Venezuela

Caracas, Venezuela

2010 World Monuments Watch

The Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism (FAU) building at the Central University of Venezuela is an emblematic work of modernity, architecture, and technology. It is the most successful and significant structure in the university complex, which comprises over 90 buildings. Designed by Carlos Raul Villanueva, an important modern architect, the campus was constructed during the 1950s and spans over 400 acres of former farmland on the outskirts of Caracas. The campus was designated a World Heritage Site in 2000 in recognition of its coherent realization of the urban, architectural, and artistic ideals of the early twentieth century. Throughout the campus, sculptures, murals, and paintings by avant-garde artists such as Jean Arp, Alexander Calder, and Alejandro Otero are found.

The FAU building was constructed in 1957 employing the academic theories and principles of Bauhaus that Villanueva espoused. Within the rectangular nine-story structure large, pragmatic, multiuse public spaces are distinguished by changes of scale and level, separating the exhibition hall, library, cafeterias, auditorium, and studios. The façade’s ornamentation is limited to cement projections lining the windows, the architectural mosaics, and a colorful mural by Alejandro Otero.

After over 50 years of intensive use, restoration to the façade of the FAU and a study of its structure were needed. However, the university lacked the resources to carry out more than basic maintenance. The FAU building was included on the 2010 World Monuments Watch in order to help the university implement a campaign that would ensure the preservation of this important element in the campus ensemble. Over the next few years, pressures of growth created by evolving academic, research and administrative needs put the integrity of the entire campus design at risk. A lack of resources and technical capacity made the preservation of the modern materials, construction techniques, and ornamentation a challenging prospect. The campus of the Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas was included on the 2014 Watch in order to raise awareness about the need to steward it through management that balances change and preservation.

 

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