The Central University of Venezuela (or Universidad Central de Venezuela in Spanish) is a premier public University of Venezuela located in Caracas. Founded in 1721, it is the oldest university in Venezuela and one of the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. The main university campus, Ciudad Universitaria De Caracas, was designed by architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva and it is considered a masterpiece of urban planning and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000.
The origin of the university goes back to Friar Antonio González de Acuña (1620–1682), a Peruvian Bishop who studied theology at the Universidad de San Marcos and founded in 1673 the Seminary Saint Rose of Lima in Caracas named after the first Catholic Saint born in the Americas. In the following years, Friar Diego de Baños y Sotomayor, broaden the scope of the seminary by creating the School and Seminary of Saint Rose of Lima in 1696. Yet, in spite of the creation of the seminar, students who wished to obtain a university degree had to travel great distances to attend universities located in Santo Domingo, Bogotá or Mexico City.
The new campus was going to become a vast urban complex of about 200 ha. and included a total of 40 buildings. Villanueva worked closely with 28 of the most important avant-garde artists of the time, from both Venezuela and the rest of the world, to build what continues to be one of the most successful applications of Modern Architecture in Latin America. Villanueva's guiding principle was the creation of a space where art and architecture cohabited in harmony in a "Synthesis of Arts".
Among some of the most important pieces present in the University are the "Floating Clouds" by Alexander Calder, murals by Victor Vasarely, Wifredo Lam, Fernand Léger and sculptures by Jean Arp and Henri Laurens. The Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas was declared World Heritage by UNESCO, and it is the only modern University campus designed by a single architect to receive such high honor.