Many of you have surely wondered what lies behind the large entrance of house number 113 on 19 de Marzo street in the Colonial Zone. Since 1913, that’s been the site of a splendid structure in all its eclectic Greek revival glory, commissioned by Juan Bautista Vicini Perdomo to a talented architect who showed the country the many possibilities of working with concrete —that is, Czech-born Antonin Nechodoma, one of the precursors of Caribbean modernism.

In Casa de los Vitrales, architect José Batlle guides us through its layout and its elaborate details, from the rooms occupied by the Vicini-De Marchena family to the awe-inducing stained-glass windows that gave the residence its name. On top of that, Batlle shares the thorough restoration process he led on the centenarian property, which has now become an architectural treasure that has opened its doors to public use. 

THE SPACES

Indoors Wellbeing in a room

The main living area of the house is in the forward-facing area of the second floor, immediately behind the balcony and the façade. The living area is composed of three well defined, interjoined sections: one sitting room on the north side is demarcated by a wall with a sliding door adorned with stained-glass panels; while the other salon, on the south side, is separated by a low-wall colonnade, both maintaining a central continuity with the main hall.

Interiores El bienestar de la sal

Indoors The dining room

Nechodoma’s interest in form, the environment and location make for the creation of a unique space. The dining room is located on the second floor, between the central courtyard and the backyard, on the one hand, and between the yard of the neighboring house and the central hallway. Within its walls an atmosphere of absolute intimacy is achieved. The sense of airiness created by its numerous stained-glass items provide natural light and ventilation, making this an exceptional space.

Indoors The central courtyard

The design of the house seems somewhat compact until arriving at this courtyard, around which run three corridors leading to the different areas of the home, in particular those that occupy the central block housing the billiards room on the first floor and, over this, the dining area on the second. These spaces, where rooms are separated by corridors and the central courtyard, achieve a feeling of freshness through the combination of sun and shade, which produce a pleasantly inviting atmosphere.

Outdoors The backyards

The architect designed a garden by dividing it into four squared-off areas for planting and, right in the middle of them, he placed a fountain. The design of this little park is reminiscent of another, grander garden devised by Nechodoma for the old Parque Independencia of 1911, with its fondly cherished gazebo. After being demolished, nothing remains of the former layout, as the public site has been completely modified with a new design.

Exteriores Los patios traseros

Technology Water supply

Both the design plans and the blueprints point to the existence of a cistern in the patio area, extending underneath the rear end of the house. Two metal lids attest to this, one in the inner corridor exit to the courtyard and the other further in the back garden. Other cisterns were later included to serve as backup to the first when the water below was not enough to meet the household’s needs. In addition, there’s an elevated water tank on the southeastern corner of the house.

Details The stained-glass windows

At the time of the construction of the house, interest in stained glass was experiencing a major revival and had become an indispensable fixture for the décor and furnishing details of the fashionable home. Most front doors or even staircase windows were decorated with these stained-glass items so in vogue at that time. As was everything else then, these details were advertised in magazines, catalogues, pamphlets and foldouts.

Detalles Los vitrales

Details The marble staircase

In a palace or noble house, it has always been crucial that the property appropriately represent the social category of its inhabitants. There are many kinds of architectural devices that can help project the desired image, but undoubtedly, one of the most striking is that of an imposing staircase. This inordinately visible feature required the use of nothing but premium materials, such as marble and granite —in the case of this residence, it was made from the former.

Detalles La escalera de mármol_

Details Furniture design

The invaluable collection of family postcards gives us a glimpse into the appearance of the furnishings as well as their places of origin —many were imported from Europe. And yet, upon a closer review of the archival documents, it was revealed that Nechodoma followed one of the biggest trends of the era by taking over the furniture design. This was in tune with Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision, which stated that architects should handle the furnishings themselves, instead of leaving that task to the homeowners.

Detalles El diseño de muebles
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The Team

José Batlle

Restoration architect and researcher 

Víctor Siladi

Photographer, art director and designer

Janet Canals

Copy editor

Jimmy Hungría

Copy editor

Amanda Livoti

Translator

Jimmy González

Editorial designer

Damián Siladi

Digital photo editing

Ramón Valerio

Production assistant

Santos Calderón

Production assistant