The High – Rise and the Shack : Rhizomatic Collisions in Caracas’ Torre David

Clara Irazábal
Latinx and Latin American Studies Program,
Department of Architecture, Urban
Planning and Design
University of Missouri Kansas City

Irene Sosa
Department of Television and Radio,
Department of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies
Brooklyn College

Lee Evan Schlenker
Organizer with the Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective
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 The High-Rise and the Shack: Rhizomatic Collisions in Caracas’ Torre David. The High-Rise and the Shack 2 “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
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.