Villa Planchart, Caracas 1953-57

Fascinated by Ponti's love for architecture, Anala and Armando Planchart commissioned him to design their home in the Venezuelan capital.

Originally published in Domus 375/February 1961


A "Florentine" villa
House for Anala and Armando Planchart in Caracas
Gio Ponti Ponti in the Studio Ponti Fornaroli Rosselli

The captions under the very meticulous photographs by Paolo Gasparini can help us understand the characteristics of this structure dedicated to Anala and Armando Planchart much better than any separate text. It is located in Caracas, on top of a cerro (hill) that overlooks the heights from which you can view the city in a marvelous perspective (Caracas stretches out into a valley that runs between the higher slopes of the El Avila mountains on the one hand and these softer hills on the other). Paolo Gasparini worked not only as the expert photographer that he is in this difficult field of architectural photography but also as a connoisseur of architecture (without which it would be impossible to photograph it). He has photographically rendered this complex in the best way possible, as it is difficult to reproduce because each space opens on many sides to other spaces, leading to a series of changing architectural events, composed and integrated with one another, with crossed and crossing views, transverses, sequences, from top to bottom and vice versa; with level changes and transparencies, composing planes and spaces in a game with no interruptions, in which new perspectives always appear and are framed as the visitor moves through it.
It can be observed in these photographs of the exterior how the facade walls – supported walls– appear separated at their edges and do not meet at their corners to form a closed and full volume. This is because the wall - which is no longer bearing but is only a screen supported by the structure - must not have 'weight' even visually and this is demonstrated by its thin edges. These facade walls are also separated from the roof, whose broad, thin wing gutter seems to be continuation of the living-room ceiling. This roof is like a large wing resting on the house to protect it. The exterior walls, and the wing’s underside are clad in white ceramic mosaic by Joo Ceramica
It can be observed in these photographs of the exterior how the facade walls – supported walls– appear separated at their edges and do not meet at their corners to form a closed and full volume. This is because the wall - which is no longer bearing but is only a screen supported by the structure - must not have 'weight' even visually and this is demonstrated by its thin edges. These facade walls are also separated from the roof, whose broad, thin wing gutter seems to be continuation of the living-room ceiling. This roof is like a large wing resting on the house to protect it. The exterior walls, and the wing’s underside are clad in white ceramic mosaic by Joo Ceramica
This building, like my other house in Caracas, the BIanca Arreaza Villa (see Domus 349), is a game of spaces, surfaces and volumes offered in different ways to those who visit. It is a 'machine' or, if you will, an abstract sculpture on a massive scale, not to be viewed from outside but to experience from within, penetrating it and moving through it. It is made to be observed by a continuously moving eye. But this building is not made only for the eye; it is made for the life of its inhabitants. With careful understanding, it accentuated what was requested, receiving, in the end, the truest praise for the architect: the affirmation that he succeeded in providing what was desired, and requested, for the life of the residents.

I must say that this was a very pleasant task because the requests were always intelligent, clear, discrete, made with trusting friendship by the unmatched individuals to whom I dedicated this work. Vitruvius said that the client is the father of architecture and that its mother is the architect. The clients in Caracas were exemplary parents, and not so much because of the great generosity of means that they devoted to their home, but because of the human sympathy, rare discretion, understanding and trust that accompanied the architect's work, multiplying his efforts.
The appearance of the entry. A wing with its large cantilever shades the outdoor car park
The appearance of the entry. A wing with its large cantilever shades the outdoor car park
Oh, if all clients were like that! The client – as my friend Rogers says - is the person without whom we cannot make architecture, but also the person with whom we cannot make it just the same. But in Caracas, the client was the one with whom we were able to make, according to our strengths, architecture. In other words, time could be dedicated to architecture instead of spending it fighting with a self-destructive client rather than on architecture. I am also grateful to Anala and Armando Planchart for the kindness with which they met my desire to honor their home with Italian art, in addition to Venezuelan and international abstract works, and those by that great Venezuelan master Reveron, in their collection: from the paintings by Morandi to those by Campigli, from works by Melotti and di Rui to glassworks by Venini and Seguso, to ceramics by Gambone, Ferrari silks, chairs and armchairs by Cassina, to the objects by Danese. Most of the furniture and fittings were produced masterfully by Giordano Chiesa not merely as a producer but as a true collaborator. The lamps are by Arredoluce, the 'abstract' cowhide rugs by Colombi in Milan. The marble is Italian. (An executive collaboration in architecture was given to me earlier in Caracas by Mario De Giovanni, and finally by Graziano Gasparini, architect and friend).
The client – as my friend Rogers says – is the person without whom we cannot make architecture, but also the person with whom we cannot make it just the same
Left:The natural environment in which the house stands is on top of a <i>‘cerrito’</i> (a small  hill). On the <i>‘cerrito’</i> around the house, the garden was not designed but created with a wonderful collection of trees and tropical flowers chosen by the clients themselves who have a great love for these things and are very knowledgeable about them. Right: the facade towards Caracas
Left:The natural environment in which the house stands is on top of a ‘cerrito’ (a small hill). On the ‘cerrito’ around the house, the garden was not designed but created with a wonderful collection of trees and tropical flowers chosen by the clients themselves who have a great love for these things and are very knowledgeable about them. Right: the facade towards Caracas
Speaking of things Italian, I would like to add a curious fact, however, that goes back to a conviction that, through successive episodes, has increasingly strengthened in me.

No other influence that was not my most absolute and free personal expression and adherence to exclusively modern principles and experience existed for me when I faced this project: none. In it, I was allowed to carry out this desired expression fully: to follow those principles - the expression of the "supported wall," of a "lantern architecture" and so forth - meaning such thinking that constitutes my belief in modern architecture; outside of, and beyond, any 'nationalistic' or environmental expression.
The open staircase as seen from the living room
The open staircase as seen from the living room
The results? One result is that, when operating with due, and more than natural, attention to the site's climatic conditions, which is only right and elementary and easy, the architecture comes 'naturally' without the need to recall or copy the environment. The other is that, having acted only with sincerity without any 'Italian' preconditioning, that is, without wanting to create, as Cocteau put it, une architecture (italienne) d'après l'architecture (italienne) , the surprising episode (and dear to me) came about in which I said that this was a "Florentine villa." This opinion, delivered with sincerity spontaneously by local residents, apart from any pretense of expressing any opinion about "architecture," is probative of one thing: that is even when making an architecture that unscrupulously results from its own time, one is (or remains) unconsciously, but happily, part of one's own country; that is Italian, more in the deep and true tradition and not in a formal and academic way. It is neither necessary to be a dogmatic follower of modern design or a dogmatic follower of traditional design to be modern and traditional, nor even to be preoccupied with all of this. It is enough to know the spirit of a modern culture and, as far as 'Italian-ness' is concerned, it is enough just to be Italian. Thus, as an Italian, I was able to pay tribute to Venezuelan citizens who honored me be calling upon me to work in their beautiful capital.
The interior staircase located between the living-room and the patio. The ceramic cladding of the patio penetrates into the staircase space. The two ceramic statues are by Fausto Melotti
The interior staircase located between the living-room and the patio. The ceramic cladding of the patio penetrates into the staircase space. The two ceramic statues are by Fausto Melotti
The patio from the living room window. The patio walls are faced with a background 'texture' in elements of walled tiles. In front of them, detached from the wall, are thin ceramic shapes of different designs (a kind of fantastic abstract climbing vegetation). The ceramics are by Fausto Melotti
The patio from the living room window. The patio walls are faced with a background 'texture' in elements of walled tiles. In front of them, detached from the wall, are thin ceramic shapes of different designs (a kind of fantastic abstract climbing vegetation). The ceramics are by Fausto Melotti
Upstairs, the guest room: from here there is a deep perspective view (one of the seven perspective views crossing the body of the house that were studied in the project) from the bedroom to the patio, to the staircase, the window above the entrance to the sky. Note how  the top edge of the ceramic patio wall is inclined inward and screened. At night, the light rains 'moonily' from above (behind the screen) bathing the wall
Upstairs, the guest room: from here there is a deep perspective view (one of the seven perspective views crossing the body of the house that were studied in the project) from the bedroom to the patio, to the staircase, the window above the entrance to the sky. Note how the top edge of the ceramic patio wall is inclined inward and screened. At night, the light rains 'moonily' from above (behind the screen) bathing the wall
In the master bedroom, the wall unit houses a jade collection. In the central illuminated display case, there is a surprising play of positive and negative, depending on the position of the swivel panel covering the niche
In the master bedroom, the wall unit houses a jade collection. In the central illuminated display case, there is a surprising play of positive and negative, depending on the position of the swivel panel covering the niche

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