Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Tower of David - Vertical Urban Anarchy

The video above accompanies a remarkable story from The New York Times (via Archinect) about an unfinished skyscraper in the centre of the Venezualan capital of Caracas that is currently inhabited entirely by squatters. Known as the 'Tower of David' the 45 floor building is named after its financier David Brillembourg who died in the early 90s before it could be completed.

Following the death of Brillembourg and a banking crisis in in 1994 the tower fell into the hands of the government and remained empty for over a decade until its occupation in 2007. Without utilities or services the dangerous building is now home to over 2,500 so-called 'invaders' who have been unable to find accommodation elsewhere due to the failure of Hugo Chavez's socialist government to provide adequate housing.

While offering hope to some residents it has become a symbol of 'decline' for others: 
“They call me an invader and I work in the credit department of Banco de Venezuela,” said Mr. Hernández, referring to the state-owned institution that he says employs him. “Society hates us, and the government doesn’t know what to do with us. Do they really think we want to be living in the Tower of David?”
This story reminded me of the the building hijackings in Johannesburg's Hillbrow district which first came to my attention after seeing Louis Theroux's BBC documentary Law and Disorder in Johannesburg in 2008. Following up on the story I found this 2010 interview by Africa Business News with Moses Ka Moyo of the Friends of the Inner-city Forum:

Undoubtedly the contrasts between these two situations have as much to tell us as any ostensible similarities.