Hotel Humboldt

HUMBOLDT HOTEL HISTORY

The Humboldt Hotel is located at the top of Waraira Repano National Park [1] (El Ávila) at 2,140 meters over sea level. It was built under the doctrine of the New National Ideal, which used to be a Nation project promoted by President Marcos Pérez Jiménez (1914-2001) which boosted Venezuela´s urban modernization during the fifties.

Since then, this piece of work has represented a landmark in Venezuelan modern architecture, becoming a referential icon of the city and the country´s urban within Latin-America´s context. Designed by Venezuelan architect Tomás José Sanabria (1922-2008) together with structural engineer Oscar Urreiztieta, this project was developed at full speed, and was finished in only 199 days, just one day before the 200-day deadline set forth by the government.

Construction works took place between May and November 1956. The challenge to build this outstanding masterpiece, where no one had ever done it before was completed.

This iconic architectonic work legacy of the 20th century was been recently submitted to a restoration process that began on May 16th, 2012 and ended on May 4th, 2018. The task was executed by an interdisciplinary team of professionals and specialists, coordinated by restorer architect and Sanabria´s last assistant, Gregory Vertullo. Such restoration was aimed at doing an intervention headed to preserve the hotel´s original image and to recover all the building spaces according to its original design and to meet the current requirements of the Hotel industry.

Historical background

The Hotel is part of El Ávila (Waraira Repano) architectural set and landscape plan developed during 1954 and 1957. This plan was aimed at creating the greatest recreation and tourist resort. Such a project involved the cable car as transportation means and the main purpose of which would be to connect the capital city to the coastal area by using a system of cable car stations and spaces which would offer visitors different types of services.

The first stage of the work included the construction of a cable car system with an arrival station located on one of the crests of the mountain, with areas that would be used as the reception of the visitors of the park. The second stage included the construction of the Hotel and the continuation of the cable car line up to the coast border, as well as a 600-meter long cable car line that would enter the building from the upper station. 

The Humboldt Hotel was inaugurated by the president Marcos Pérez Jiménez on December 29th, 1956.

Cable cars began operating in full (Maripérez-Ávila, Ávila-Humboldt, Ávila-El Cojo – Macuto) on April 19th, 1957. The building was designed as a Hotel-island, formed by a lower structure with social, entertainment and service areas, placed under a series of vaults and prism structures with 70 accommodations with 360 degrees panoramic views to the city and the Caribbean Sea.

All the design responds to functionalist and rationalist criteria of modern architecture, developed especially in Germany by architect Walter Gropius (1883-1969), founder of Bauhaus, in the beginning of the 20th century. Gropius traveled to the U.S. and passed these ideas on to Sanabria at Harvard, where Venezuelan architect obtained his Master’s degree in architecture in 1947.

Well-known professionals, such as Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx (1909 – 1994), Spanish artist Abel Vallmitjana (1909 – 1974) and Dutch furniture designer Cornelys Zitman (1926 – 2016) participated and collaborated in Humboldt Hotel´s project.

Texts drawn-up by Architect Gregory Vertullo, MSc.
[1]   The mountain which dominates the view of the city of Caracas, was known as Waraira Repano which means “large mountain range”, by the original people from the valley of Caracas ─of Caribbean origin─. Other people assure the right word was Wariarepano which means “place of tapirs”, due to a large amount of mammals of this species which crowed the mountains. However, it is popularly known as El Ávila. The name “Ávila” was heard for the first time in 1778, according to the Records of the Provincial Authority of Caracas. Entrerayas, No. 131, September 2019.
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