In the middle of downtown Caracas in Venezuela is an abandoned 45 story tower that has been reclaimed by squatters who have turned it into a thriving vertical shanty town. Built during the booming nineties when the real estate market was putting up ever larger edifices to the banking industry, the project, which is one of the tallest in Latin America, became a financial white elephant. Named after developer David Brillembourg, an estimated 2500 people now call the Tower of David home. After his death the government took possession, but seems to not have the stomach to change the status quo. Two decades later, the tower has become a symbol of the decline of Venezuela for some, but can also be viewed as a triumph of the spirit its occupants.
Pressure for housing in the city was not being met by the private sector for fear of properties becoming seized by the government. The government has not kept with demand for housing so the abandoned building and dozens of others in the city have become a last stand refuge for thousands.
The residents, who prefer being called neighbors rather than squatters, have turned the skeleton of the building into a functional community in which they are able to provide electricity and water for themselves. The facade is dotted with satellite TV dishes and cement block terraces. The residents keep the building relatively clean and have formed a security detail at the entrances. Astonishingly, retail has flourished in the building with a small shop on nearly every inhabited floor and other services are sprinkled throughout the building. Recreation and child care facilities have also been established.
As the government is taking a hands off approach, the remarkable and resourceful neighbors have made the best of a unique and difficult situation. Residents have taken up 28 floors so far but with no elevators, lighting or even guard rails, the limits of occupying such a space are stretching even the hardiest of them. Sewage disposal is an issue, as is a lack of protection from falling. The story of turning a high-rise into habitation for the poor and homeless has been proposed by architects like Tom Morgan with his Slumdog Superstructure but the Tower of David may be the grandest test of what the possibilities of living in such conditions really means.
Via New York Times