Villa Planchart, Caracas, 1953–57

By Sophie Bouilhet-Dumas

Excerpts from the catalogue.

In the 1950’s, strengthened by its petroleum resources, Venezuela saw unprecedented economic growth. Transforming very rapidly, its capital wanted to rival with the modernity of other Latin-American capitals like Rio de Janeiro or Mexico City. Armando and

Anala Planchart, collectors and lovers of modern architecture, contributed to this by inviting Gio Ponti who was by then internationally recognised thanks to Domus magazine, to design their villa on the hilltops of Caracas.

View of the facade, Villa Planchart, Caracas, 1953-57
© Antoine Baralhé

“Your house will be (…) like a big butterfly poised on the hillside”, Ponti specified in a letter resuming the future owners’ wishes. Indeed, lightness was the key feature of the ensemble: elevated walls fixed to the framework appeared like suspended screens and defined the spatial character of the house. The roof, sitting like a wing on the summit, finished off the building and conformed to the principal of forma finita (finished form) announced by the architect. At night, a lighting system emphasized the contours and in the daytime, the white walls punctuated with bay windows created a sparkling surface.

Throughout the 1300 square metres, Ponti favoured the multiplicity of viewpoints, the openings facing the horizon and the view of the surrounding mountains. He created this house like a life-size abstract sculpture that can be visited from inside in an uninterrupted series of constantly changing spectacles. (…)

Living room, Villa planchart, Caracas, 1953-57
© Antoine Baralhé Caracas, Anala and Armando Planchart Foundation

A kaleidoscopic play of colours brought the surfaces of the rooms progressively to life. The yellow striped ceilings of the lounge, library and small dining room echoed the marble mosaic floor of the entrance hall, but also the multicoloured designs of the ceiling in the main dining room. The interior doors and windows were all unique thanks to the geometric motifs painted in pink, yellow and sky blue onto a white background. (…)

As with the Ange volant in France, Villa Planchart is the transposition of an Italian dream, but this time amidst the tropical vegetation of Venezuela. All of the materials, marble and aluminium, the carpentry, but also the furniture and the craft objects were brought from Italy by boat. (…) A total work of art, today, Villa Planchart is home to the foundation that watches over the conservation of the building in its entirety.