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.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.