There is perhaps no unfinished skyscraper more infamous than Torre de David, a 45-story shell of a building that has informally housed about 5,000 Venezuelans since 2007. Now the property that has become known as the world's tallest slum is being acquired by Chinese investors, and this week, the government began evicting residents.
As reported by Tal Cual, a group of Chinese banks are working with the government to purchase the property, which was originally meant to be a financial center. As part of the agreement, the residents of the downtown Caracas building are negotiating with the city's Minister of Transformation to be relocated. According to local reporters, the country's armed services are now relocating residents, floor-by-floor. Some told reporters that they had accepted a deal to be moved to new housing outside the city in December. A local advocacy group estimates that over 100 families have already been moved.
Torre de David's history goes all the way back to 1990, when construction began on what was then called the Centro Financiero Confinanzas, planned to be the third-tallest building in the country. But after the death of the investor—David Brillembourg, the "David" for whom the tower is named—work on the building was delayed, then halted completely in 1994 as the country succumbed to a sweeping financial crisis.
The building remained empty for over a decade until families began occupying the bottom 28 floors in 2007, carving out some quite impressive apartments in what were meant to be offices and parking garages. There are no working elevators, and no power or running water—and on some sides, no windows—yet Torre de David has become a functioning community, with resident-run bars, stores, and other businesses providing goods and services to the thousands of residents. The residents have rigged their own electrical grid and even implemented a security system that allows access only to those who live there.
Like other chronically empty buildings, the skyscraper's notoriety has become a symbol of both the global financial collapse and the city's own battle with urban blight. It has been the subject of documentaries and portrayed in shows like Homeland. The building and its residents were also photographed by acclaimed architectural photographer Iwan Baan as part of an exhibition at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale, one of the most honest portrayals of life inside.
As ArchDaily mentions, there have been many promises and false alarms from the government over the years to both improve conditions and relocate residents. Although it seems like the city is now committed to swapping squatters with financial workers, the building must undergo extensive renovations, not only remove the residents' improvements, but also install basic amenities. Even if the sale to Chinese bankers goes through as planned, it will be many more years—and a hefty investment—before the Torre de David reverts back to its intended use as an office tower. If it does at all. [ArchDaily]
Top image by Saúl Briceño