The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
In this essay, Juan Calzadilla points out all the qualities that enabled Venezuelan architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva to become the “protector of the arts” and to develop the Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas, the project for the “integration of the arts” for which he is most known internationally. The well-known critic goes on to mention some of the points of reference Villanueva looked to for this synthesis of his work, among them Brazilian landscape architects and Mexican muralists. In closing, Calzadilla names some of the important foreign artists who worked with Villanueva on the university complex.
In this text, critic Juan Calzadilla (b. 1931) places emphasis on the uncommon achievement of architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva (1900–75) insofar as he managed to obtain the ideal of “integrating the arts” pursued by many but accomplished by few. The Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas is an exemplary work in the sphere of contemporary art and the most successful representation of that ideal in South America. The points of reference that Calzadilla mentions here had been mentioned previously by Villanueva himself in the paper he delivered in Paris in 1962 entitled “Synthesis of the Arts: Southern Europe and Latin America.” Calzadilla argues that not all of the works in the project effect “integration”; some of them entail simply “juxtaposition.” There are also, in his view, some errors in the selection of works. Regardless, Calzadilla by no means underestimates the task of “artistic integration” that Villanueva formulated on the basis of architecture. The foreign artists invited to participate in the project include Henri Laurens, Antoine Pevsner, Jean Arp, and Víctor Vasarely; whereas the specific works of some of those foreign artists are mentioned in this essay, only the names of the Venezuelan artists who participated are mentioned. Indeed, it is common for writings on the Cuidad Universitaria de Caracas to relegate the Venezuelan artists who participated in the project. In this text, Calzadilla quotes Sir John Rothenstein who, in The Sunday Times (1961), described the project as “a city of all the arts in Venezuela.” Calzadilla points out that, for Rothenstein, abstract art ceases to fail only when it forms part of an “architectonic whole.” Calzadilla also includes a number of quotes from Villanueva himself, all of them from texts featured in the compilation of his writings entitled Escritos (1965). He also cites Sibyl Moholy-Nagy in reference to Fernand Léger’s participation in the project.
[For further reading on the project, see in the ICAA digital archive by Villanueva himself “La síntesis de las Artes” (doc. no. 864335); Guillermo de Torre’s “Los artistas extranjeros de la ciudad universitaria de Caracas” (doc. no. 1060120), and “Ciudades Universitarias México y Caracas” (doc. no. 1172362); Sibyl Moholy-Nagy’s essay in English entitled “Villanueva and the Uses of Arts: The integration of painting and sculpture in his architecture constitutes a unique achievement of our period” (doc. no. 1172346); Antonio Muiño Loureda’s article “Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas: una síntesis de las artes plásticas”(doc. no. 864275); Víctor Vasarely’s essay “Un sueño hecho realidad” (doc. no. 1172298); and Sir John Rothenstein’s “Una ciudad de todas las artes en Venezuela” (doc. no. 864294)].