A Peek At Life Inside In The World’s Tallest Slum

A look back at life in Torre David, the high-rise squat in Caracas whose residents are currently being relocated.

In late July, police began relocating residents of Torre David, the 620-foot-tall unfinished skyscraper that thousands of squatters in Caracas, Venezuela, call home.


Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner, directors of the design practice Urban-Think Tank, spent more than year studying the building and its residents for what would eventually become their 2012 book, Torre David: Informal Vertical Communities. The book’s photographs, by renowned architecture photographer Iwan Baan, provide a snapshot of life in the controversial community, which was often derided as a crime-ridden slum.

The complex, originally intended as a commercial development, was only partially finished when Venezuela’s banking crisis stopped construction in 1994. In 2007, a group of squatters took control of the abandoned tower. Over the years it has become home to hundreds of families, who turned the unfinished skyscraper into a high-rise community.

Informal as the settlement was, the building’s inhabitants created their own distinct society within the skyscraper’s walls, complete with resident-run shops, security guards, and shared electricity and water. Baan’s photos show how residents altered the construction site to fit their needs, constructing homes, businesses, and even exercise facilities.

About the author

Shaunacy Ferro is a Brooklyn-based writer covering architecture, urban design and the sciences. She's on a lifelong quest for the perfect donut.