martes, 26 de marzo de 2019

Olmsted Brothers only work in Venezuela, the Caracas Country Club, Threatened by Redevelopment Plans

Caracas Country Club´s landscaping and golf courses, 1958 (f. Archives of
Fundación de la Memoria Urbana, Caracas)

With Melanie Macchio.

The Caracas Country Club, a landscaping community and golf course placed in the middle of the Caracas valley, is a 1928 project by the landscape architecture firm of Olmsted Brothers, and the firm's only work in Venezuela. This treasure of the history of urbanism and of landscaping is the most successful homage to the valley of Caracas’ natural scenery, which thanks to this project still survives there, practically intact. This is today the only remaining place where can be actually seen how the valley’s original natural landscape was before the city was built. Although listed as a National Landmark in 2005, the green urban oasis of the "Caraquenian 'Central Park'" is increasingly being menaced by pressures coming from public and private interests, that want to densify and construct it, changing forever its beautiful character and original features.

Caracas Country Club Golf House, 1930, architect Clifford Charles Wendehack (f. Archives of
Fundación de la Memoria Urbana, Caracas)

By 1920, Olmsted Brothers was the largest office of landscape architecture in the world. Meanwhile, in Caracas, in 1922, was created the Caracas Country Club. Aiming to extend the golf courses and have a better club house, around 1926 was founded the Syndicate Blandin, an association named after the Hacienda Blandin, a plantation nesting on the eastern side of the valley, where the residential golf club would be built. This hacienda was famous for having introduced in 1786 the culturing of coffee in the valley of Caracas, as for its magnificent trees and its beautiful hacienda house placed on the edge of a creek.

The Syndicate Blandin took the pioneering decision of doing a new and singular urban experience, the first of its kind in the country, on the hacienda's lands. In this way, they called the Olmsted firm, hiring it to do the urban design and the landscaping. But they did more than that: they turned the commission into a sensitive urban design and landscaping project that can be counted among the most notable American urbanisms of the Twentieth-century. The Caracas Country Club golf courses would be designed by the American architect and golf course specialist Charles Banks in collaboration with the Olmsted firm.

Olmsted Brothers continued Frederick Law Olmsted's ideal, spirit and compromise for the preservation of the American landscape in its most genuine beauty. A 1916 statement by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., contains already a lot of what he would do lately in the Caracas Country Club: (it is important) “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations”  Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., also formulated the concept of “Global Planning”, a fortunate mix of the Olmsted's landscaping and preservationist saga, with the civic ornamentalism of the City Beautiful Movement. His suburban plans –especially Forest Hills Gardens, in New York, and the Riverside neighborhood, in New Jersey-, already announced his ideas of what would be the Caracas Country Club.

Olmsted worry for the future of "the irreplaceable and unvalued domains of the past”, would preserve in Caracas a great deal of the original conditions of the place occupied by the haciendas. Thus, he maintained the natural topography of El Avila Mountain's foothills, privileging in the golf courses' design wide views to the mountain and to the southern hills. The allotment's irregular form and the street pattern that winds “around great grass extensions under masses of trees”, were curved ex profeso to conserve intact the centenary specimens of trees and palms that grew on these lands. The hacienda's road, once lined with palms, was another element kept in the design by the Olmsted firm. Today the Caracas Country Club is not only an ecological and environmental sanctuary: it is also a sanctuary of landscape's memory. 

Caracas Country Club Golf House, 1930, architect Clifford Charles Wendehack (f. Carlos Guinand Sandoz, 1930. Archives of Fundación de la Memoria Urbana, Caracas)

The issue of the preservation of the first landscape architecture residential project in Venezuela, despite all of the importance of its legacy and its crucial value for the quality of the urban life, the landscape and the history of Caracas, returns repeatedly and is becoming more and more controversial. Since 2000, due to the forces and appetites of the real estate market, the neighborhood began to be in severe danger of disappearing. After luckily achieving its 2005 its landmark designation, at the end of 2007, nevertheless, the golf courses were almost expropriated by the government in order to build social housing. Power pressures from investors and the saga of irresponsible destruction, are again trying to change the zoning to redevelop the land into rentable apartment towers based upon the fact that the houses and their gardens were not included in the 2005 landmark designation. The argument of the Caracas Country Club reconversion into a public park and transportation issues are now also being used as an excuse to force rezoning and disprotect the site. Therefore, threats are coming from both sides political and economical.

How you can help/ Get involved
The Venezuelan Chapter of Docomomo is working to claim for international attention for the conservation and preservation of this remarkable American Designed Landscape. In the difficult political times Venezuela is living and the actual fragmented condition of the Caracas municipal government, a serious public discussion about of the site's alternatives that takes into account its patrimonial status seems almost impossible. Docomomo Venezuela is seeking for help to organize a full historical dossier of the site and activate an international discussion on its urban, ecological and preservation issues. It also maintains an ongoing conversation with the Caracas Country Club Board and other interested parties, like the Alcaldia Metropolitana de Caracas, about the importance of preservation issues. Send a letter or email supporting the preservation of the Caracas Country Club to: Docomomo Venezuela, Avenida Orinoco, Cabrini 1, Las Mercedes, Caracas 1060, Venezuela or

Related Content
Caracas Country Club
Caracas, VE
Landscape information
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For more information about how to help, please contact
Docomomo Venezuela:


Hannia Gómez. "Olmsted in Blandín, Preserving the Modern Heritage", Landscape Architecture, The Urban Times, May 23 (2011).
Seventy-nine plans and drawings completed by the firm for the project, plus an album with 112 historic photos exist in the Olmsted Archives of the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, Brookline, Massachusetts. Three folders of client-architect correspondence (Job No. 7947) are in the collection of the Olmsted Papers, Olmsted Associates Records, Series B, from the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 

Published: Landslide, The Cultural Landscape Foundation, Washington DC, Jan 3, 2012:

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