Torre David – A taste for what’s to come?

Such an inspiring idea from Caracas. I see this model of development as a likely taste of what is to come.

Torre David is the largest squatted building in the world, a failed real estate development, “invaded” by people with no homes to go to. Following Venezuela’s financial crash the large shiny office block in down town Caracas has become home to 2,500 people, each family conducting their own organic appropriation of the space, and with locally organised security.

“this 150 meter tall building is currently hosting about 2500 squatters who find in it, a good way to dwell in this housing crisis time. This skyscraper that was originally supposed to become an architectural symbol and an economically operative building of the Financial power never finished its construction because of the national financial crisis in the late 90′s.

The Torre David is an interesting trend, considering Caracas’ large numbers of slum dwellers, and at the same large failed real estate ventures. In the context of rising unemployment, and diminishing national budgets, I think this is a trend that could become more widespread. In Rio de Janeiro for example there is the perverse situation of huge and empty failed condominiums for aspiring upper middle classes side by side with the slums.

The combination of abandoned structures and people in need of housing seems to make a good match. Caracas has a housing shortage of 40,000 units, and twenty other sites like Torre David have been occupied.

Iwan Baan’s photos of life in Torre David

This sort of development leads me to imagine not only dark Bladerunner like future scenarios, like something our of the new Judge Dredd film, but also has visions of wonderful demonstrations of human capacity to innovate and appropriate space. At the moment Venezuela’s prestigious architectural team Urban Think Tank are thinking up ideas of how to help with the space.  Urban Think Tank’s founders Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner argue that:

“the future of urban development lies in collaboration among architects, private enterprise, and the global population of slum-dwellers. Brillembourg and Klumpner issue a call to arms to their fellow architects to see in the informal settlements of the world a potential for innovation and experimentation, with the goal of putting design in the service of a more equitable and sustainable future.”

At the moment there is no lift, some residents have to climb 45 stories of stairs to reach home, and there are all sorts of problems that could be solved with a bit of ingenuity. Perhaps we could have in the future a system where governments support this sort of initiative. From a cost-effectiveness and sustainability perspective, it makes sense government could help providing technical support, and renovations of buildingsto make them more liveable. Perhaps encouraging vertical gardening, a biogas powered lift system, an application of the whole ‘intelligent building design’ with a bottom line of being cheap and cost-efficient?

Human settlements in the shell of the office tower

Torre David’s rooftop gym

 

A family living room in the Tower, re-programming architecture

Organisational structure of the Tower

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