The Torre David, a 45-storey office tower in Caracas, is a boondoggle: designed by renowned Venezuelan architect Enrique Gómez, its construction was halted after the developer’s untimely death and the collapse of the Venezuelan economy in 1994. For over a decade the skyscraper stood empty, until people illegally moved in. Today the concrete skeleton houses more than 750 families in impromptu accommodations.
They live in a sort of self-governed, vertical village community, and the ruins have gradually expanded, organised an infrastructure and been furnished with modest means. The tower community now features a shop, a basketball court, a hairdresser, underground parking, and a security guard; in other words, the tower has become a city within a city with its very own structures, rules, and hierarchies.
Researchers from the Urban-Think Tank ETH Zurich investigated the spatial and social organisation of the village for over a year. What for some appears as a vertical slum is to them a laboratory for urban experiments. The Torre David reflects their opinion of how communities organise themselves autonomously and how this results in innovative impulses for megacities worldwide.
Daniel M. Schwartz
Daniel M. Schwartz is a filmmaker, photographer and urban researcher. He was born in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1987 and grew up in Atlanta, GA. He studied anthropology and photography at the University of Pennsylvania and radio journalism at the University of Botswana. His photography and writing have appeared in numerous publications such as The New York Times, The Guardian and Süddeutsche Zeitung. His short films have appeared at international festivals, been broadcasted globally, and screened in numerous museums and galleries. Schwartz currently directs the media and exhibition division of Urban-Think Tank at ETH Zurich, and their spin-off production company, Gran Horizonte.
Markus Kneer holds an MA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University and an MA in Cognitive Science from EHESS / Ecole Normale Supérieure Paris, where he is also currently finishing his PhD in Philosophy. He studied film at Princeton University as well as NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and has directed a variety of documentaries and fiction films. He is a founding member of Urban-Think Tank Films, and is based in Paris and Berlin.