Torre David, a 45-story tower in Caracas, Venezuela, was destined to be an office building until it was abandoned mid-development in 1993. Today, it is the improvised home of a community of more than 750 families, living in what some have called a vertical slum. The tower not only hosts makeshift homes, but has actually become a sort-of impromptu mixed-use complex, complete with butchers and barbers; grocers and gyms.
It is, in many ways, a Marina City of an alternate universe; one designed not by an innovative, enterprising architect, but rather by the natural needs and basic resources of tenants themselves who, by the limitations of their economic plight, have created something exquisite and raw.
“Residents policed themselves, assigned the elderly and disabled to the lower floors, and formed a cooperative to collect dues and manage the space… Families inhabit 28 of the tower’s 45 stories, trudging up unfinished staircases and hoping children stay away from empty elevator shafts and balconies that lack walls. Despite the dangers, the building provides a relatively safe haven in a city where, according to the U.S. State Department, travelers risk being kidnapped as soon as theyleave the airport.”
From New York Magazine
Though many see Torre David as an example of failed development and lost investment in a poor economy, I see an utterly fascinating study of urban development; the tenacity, resourcefulness and innovation of the human spirit; the redesign and repurpose potential of collapsed infrastructure or broken cities. I think it is beautiful and real; inspiring and captivating.
I believe Torre David could serve as a phenomenal example of how our built environments – however destitute or forgotten – can, if a community exists, however informally, be converted to serve other functions. I feel inspired by things like this – incidents and circumstances in which a community adopts the built environment as it is available to them and evolves it, ad hoc, to meet their needs.
Urban Think Tank made a film about the tower.
Watch the trailer here: