The High-Rise and the Shack

Rhizomatic Collisions in Caracas’ Torre David

Keywords: Caracas, Venezuela, Torre David, Occupations, Housing, Community organizing

Abstract

A 45-story tower in Caracas formerly occupied by some 5,000 squatters, Torre David was touted by international media accounts as the world’s most spectacular “vertical slum.” This, among other sensationalized accounts, failed to consider the paradoxical ways in which Caracas’ formal and informal, urban and architectural trajectories literally collided with each other in Torre David. The modern high-rise and the self-built shack—antagonist spatial typologies in Caracas’ growth—were dramatically superposed in the tower, unleashing hitherto un(fore)seen dynamics. Through site fieldwork, interviews, film production, media analysis, and historical research, we offer a nuanced theorization of Torre David that grapples with its charged tensions between the formal and informal, modern and traditional, modernity and postmodernity, reality and imagination, and capitalism and socialism. We begin our investigation with a historical account of the tower’s construction, abandonment, and ultimate occupation. This is followed by a theoretical positioning of Torre David as a social and physical space ‘in-between’. Ultimately, we argue that these tensions created a rhizomatic socio-spatial field heavily pregnant with both risks and hopes for the people, the government, and the spatial disciplines.

Author Biographies

Clara E. Irazábal-Zurita, University of Missouri - Kansas City

Clara Irazábal, Ph.D., is Director of the Latinx and Latin American Studies Program and Professor of Planning in the Department of Architecture, Urban Planning and Design at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Before joining UMKC in 2016, she was the Latin Lab Director and Associate Professor of Urban Planning at Columbia University, New York City. She got her Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.

Irene Sosa

Department of Television and Radio and Department of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies, Brooklyn College, The City University of New York.

Lee Evan Schlenker, Middlebury College in Vermont

Independent activist and scholar in Urban and Latin American Studies, graduate from Middlebury College in Vermont.

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Published
2020-04-15
How to Cite
Irazábal-Zurita, Clara, Irene Sosa, and Lee Schlenker. 2020. “The High-Rise and the Shack”. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 19 (1), 1-34. https://acme-journal.org/index.php/acme/article/view/1855.