Modern design, high-risk banking, economic growth, and jaw-dropping panoramas of the surrounding cityscape. These things all come to mind when you hear the word “skyscraper.” But—as the New York Times reports from Caracas, Venezuela—perhaps it’s time to start associating skyscrapers with social justice, poverty alleviation, DIY construction, and anarchism. The “Tower of David,” a 45-story high-rise and one of Caracas’ many failed development projects, has been appropriated by about 2,500 squatters as Venezuela reels in the wake of economic and housing crises.
The crafty community has figured out how to wire-in electricity and install slapdash plumbing in the bottom 28 floors (thus far). One can find a beauty salon and a dentist, if in need. Bodegas—nearly every story hosts one—supply residents with groceries and cigarettes.
Although thousands have newfound shelter, conditions remain dangerous:
The smell of untreated sewage permeates the corridors. Children scale unlit stairways guided by the glow of cellphones. Some recent arrivals sleep in tents and hammocks [. . .] Few of the building’s terraces have guardrails. Even walls and windows are absent on many floors. Yet dozens of DirecTV satellite dishes dot the balconies. The tower commands some of the most stunning views of Caracas. It contains some of its worst squalor.
Take a tour of the Tower of David and meet the intrepid denizens in the video below.