How Squatters Took Over a 45-Story Office Building

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June 23 2014 2:04 PM

The Tower of David: A 45-Story Improvised Home

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a blog about the world's hidden wonders. Like us on Facebook, Tumblr, or follow us on Twitter @atlasobscura.

The Tower of David, a 45-story skyscraper in Caracas, was designed to be an office building. Instead, it has become an improvised home to around 2,500 people.

In 1990, construction began on Centro Financiero Confinanzas, nicknamed the Tower of David after its chief investor, David Brillembourg. Within four years, two unforeseen calamities put a halt to the procedings: Brillembourg died, and Venezuela plunged into financial crisis, during which the government had to bail out 17 of the country's banks.

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With elevators, safety railings, and many windows yet to be installed, the Tower of David sat idle for 13 years. During this time, a national housing shortage was intensifying. Caracas slums and shantytowns, already home to over a million people, became even more densely populated. Then-president Hugo Chávez vowed to build enough homes to ease the shortfall, but never fulfilled the promise. By 2011, with the crisis still unsolved, he was encouraging the poor to occupy unused land around the richer parts of Caracas.

In 2007, a group of disenfranchised Caracas residents took matters into their own hands and moved into the Tower of David. In order to make the stark surroundings more livable, they formed a cooperative devoted to improving and maintaining the building.

Over the years, the 2,500-strong community at the Tower of David has installed electricity and water, established grocery stores within the building, and worked together to transport furniture, supplies, and equipment among the 28 occupied floors. (The first 10 floors have access to ramps, allowing residents to use motorbikes, but to bring anything above the 10th floor they must use the stairs.)

The Tower of David was featured in season three of Homeland, although filming took place in Puerto Rico. Last month, the building was the subject of a BBC World News documentary:


View Centro Financiero Confinanzas in a larger map

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