Image: Greetings from Caracas

Describing Caracas can be a tall order, with words coming short after seeing your first guacamayas fly against the sunset. But nature isn’t Caracas’ most significant dimension: Manuel Lara believes the city’s soul lies in its architecture, and his project, Greetings from Caracas, has gathered more than 300 iconic buildings from across a timeless landscape through minimalistic design postcards.  

“We’ve forgotten how to look at the city, to understand it,” says Manuel, as we stare at marble facades and other memories of a once thriving, glamorous city. “Caracas’ color palette is based on bright, primary colors. It has many compelling and complex architectural shapes, many straight lines and curves. I’m interested in redefining these iconic structures by removing them from their context. This helps us look closer, understand better.”

“Caracas is a feeling” said Manuel as we wandered the city at night. “It’s vibrant, beautiful and chaotic”.

I found myself looking at his interpretation of Caracas as if it were the first time. His perspective allows you to look closer at seemingly empty places, like pieces of a puzzle, places where we were once happy, in love, drunk, free.

Wandering the city together, he mentions his interest in an anthropological research methodology: these iconic buildings are made of concrete and stories of who we are as citizens. “Cities are made of memories. Their structures define us, they are as organic as those who live in them.”

Greetings from Caracas was born in 2016, in the neighborhood where Manuel was born, La Pastora, a colonial area in downtown Caracas. Within a year, he had his first 100 drawings and background research on them. Most of the buildings he portrays are iconic structures by Venezuela’s most respected architects (Carlos Raúl Villanueva, Gustavo Wallis, José María Puig and Eric Brewer, among many others), but he also aims at finding buildings made by smaller companies, designed and built by talented migrant European workers.

“Caracas’ color palette is based on bright, primary colors. It has many compelling and complex architectural shapes, many straight lines and curves.”

“Our architecture tells the story of a city that received part of WWII’s migration wave. It talks about our culture and its Portuguese, Italian and Spanish influence. Most of these buildings are orphaned, we know very little about them and they’re not considered part of our legacy by the State. We are slowly losing these places, and I try to keep their memory alive.”

Manuel is currently in Madrid, presenting Greetings from Caracas in the 6th Iberoamerican Design Biennial 2018, organized by the Design Foundation of Madrid. The project was nominated at integral/transversal design, “one of the most important categories because it encompasses art direction, design, social media and conceptual process.”

Greetings from Caracas products are now available in the Caracas Chronicles store, because we believe in keeping memories alive from a city that once saw us happy.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. He was son to the great Venezuelan teacher and Education Minister under Medina Angarita-let’s see if someone knows. Merry 🎅 🎁 🎄 Christmas and hoping 2019 is no worse than 2018. Sincerely

  2. If you are honest, most of these “iconic” buildings are rather ugly and common. And not much history, if any, behind them. If you travel a bit, say to Europe, now there you will find real, beautiful iconic buildings with lots of history. Let’s not kid ourselves.

    To me, the beauty in Venezuela lies mostly in nature: The majestic Avila mountain, La Cota Mil and the valley below, the colonial-style quintas (From El Cafetal, so I’m biased) and then the beaches and real Pueblitos (if they are relatively clean and well-maintained). There’s nothing beautiful, btw, about the billions of horrible Ranchitos all over most cities. And give me a break with the “Nestle” or “Ipostel” or “Cantv” crap. Ugly, common and on top of it commercial concrete structures.

    From an architectural/engineering point of view, very, very few buildings in Venezuela are remarkable. Las Torres de Parque Central are among them, the tallest when they were built.

  3. A good friend of mine, who also grew up in Caracas, visited Caracas soon after graduating in the U.S. in architectural design/engineering, and simply marveled at the architectural beauty/diversity he saw (late 1970’s).

    • Architectural beauty/diversity in Caracas? Any specific examples? Compared to what city, even just in Latin Am… Heck, look next door in Bogota, you’ll find much better architecture right there. Not to mention the rest of the world, including Asia, where the real gems, real beauty and real history are.

      The “iconic” buildings on this post, again, are nothing short of below average, unremarkable, if not plain ugly.

      Be honest and get real.

      • Chamito: My working years brought me to Lima in the 60’s. Fell in love with Peru, especially the historical aspects of its cities and Andean villages. From Peru I went to Europe via SE Asia, areas that in spite of many wars have managed to retain a strong sense of their architectural heritage. In the mid-70’s I moved from the UK to Caracas. My family was so excited to return to the South America we had known in Peru and Ecuador, but alas, we were greatly disappointed. Venezuelans were busy tearing down historical buildings and trying to turn Caracas into another Miami. It was sad to witness the spawning of Baja-Miami.

  4. I remember seeing the Helicoide for the first time and thinking it was amazing. Even when it was a shambles, it was clearly an awesome architecture.

  5. Caracas does have some of the best examples of 1950s modern architecture. I think LA and Caracas are similar in this.

    Chamito Candela: Saying that Parque Central is remarkable just because it’s tall shows that you don’t know much about architecture.

    Caracas beauty lies in its 1950s quintas, there’s one by Neutra, another one by Gio Ponti.

    • Because Parque Central is the only remarkable accomplishment in terms of engineering in Vzla. In terms of architecture and beauty, face it, there aren’t many buildings to write home about. Ask any well-traveled tourist. Again, the buildings mentioned above are common and ugly. Simple as that.

      Show me a remarkable, awesome building in Vzla, in World Standards.

      Do it.

      • Just because you can’t appreciate modernism doesn’t mean there isn’t anything of note in Caracas.

        Comparing Caracas to “anything in Europe”, like you said, is having a total disregard for the city’s particular history.

        First of all,Caracas never had majestic colonial architecture, it wasn’t Bogotá or Lima, because it wasn’t an important city during colonial times. Like Los Angeles, Caracas exploded demographically in the 1950s and that’s our legacy: modernism.

        Buildings of note: well, there’s the UCV for example, Gio Ponti’s house, and a lot of buildings built with that particular tropical modernist touch only found in Rio de Janeiro.

        There’s a Wallpaper Magazine City Guide dedicated to Caracas that came out in 2010 I think, and at the end in the “Further Afield” section it had… Bogotá.

        Caracas might look like a dump now, but for lovers of modernism it beats Lima or Bogota.

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