Architecture & Urban Design

Montevideo’s Casa Vilamajó

Adam Štěch

Historical architecture journalist Adam Štěch tracks down a forgotten artifact of modernism in Uruguay

In 2006, architecture and design journalist Adam Štěch launched an ambitious project to document the best modernist architecture around the globe. Over 30 countries and more than a decade later, he shares his findings in a new book—and a special series of edited excerpts just for the Design Miami Forum.

In coordination with Design Miami/ 2020’s America(s) theme, Štěch spotlights historical modernist homes across the Americas, celebrating a diversity of perspectives as he considers how time and place played into each of these expressions. So far, Štěch has taken us to Brazil and Argentina. This week, he takes us to Uruguay’s Casa Vilamajó.


Casa Vilamajó by Julio Vilamajó

Uruguay, 1930

Inside Casa Vilamajó. Photos © Adam Štěch

Beginning his career in 1916, when he was just 21 years old, Julio Vilamajó was a pioneer of modernist architecture in Uruguay. Influenced by famous contemporaries abroad—like Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer, and Frank Lloyd Wright—Vilamajó developed a unique expression of South American Modernism. The most striking example of his original oeuvre is his own house in Montevideo, which he completed in 1930. It blends the language of International Style architecture with elements drawn from eclectic sources, including historical references and non-European cultures.

Inside Casa Vilamajó. Photos © Adam Štěch

Vilamajó travelled to Europe and North Africa in the early 1920s and studied Arabic architecture, and this influence can be seen in his own home . Unlike many of his modernist peers, Vilamajó never shied away from ornament, and here he created an unexpected project in which a radical spatial conception is united with sensitive decorative details, Deco-influenced furniture, and generous, open interiors.

Eclectic design elements of Casa Vilamajó. Photos © Adam Štěch

Beyond facile categorization, the work of Vilamajó is constructed in a highly personal way. It is an excellent example of the exciting evolution of the modernist aesthetic as it spread across the world and, in particular, as it took root in the wonderfully idiosyncratic Modernism movement in Uruguay led by Vilamajó. ◆

The facade of Casa Vilamajó. Photo © Adam Štěch

Adam Štěch’s new book, Modern Architecture and Interiors (Prestel), celebrates over 1000 modernist architectural gems from around the globe. It is available for purchase here.