Tower of David: Caracas' 28-story walkup

Since 2007, squatters have occupied an abandoned skyscraper in the heart of Caracas, Venezuela, known as Torre de David (Tower of David), after its builder, David Brillembourg, who died back in the early '90s.

The Tower was left unfinished, and lacks elevators, guard rails, and in some cases, walls. Despite this, people are living as high as the 28th floor, and entrepeneurs have put bodegas and other small businesses on nearly every floor. Residents carry bricks up many flights of stairs to brick in the exposed portions of their apartment walls. Others have installed jury-rigged electrical and water systems, as well as satellite dishes for television.

Private construction in Venezuela is at a standstill, for fears that the government will seize new housing. Meanwhile, the government has failed to provide sufficient housing for the poor. With little choice other than the streets, the people of Caracas invaded the Tower of David. Dentists, electricians, and bankers are among the estimated 1,200 residents living within these walls.

Here’s some footage of the Tower.

Here are some more pictures:

If they had one in DC, I’d totally do it. Basically free rent, room to open a small business, and space to build what you want.

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

It sucks that they have to resort to squatting in the tower but it seeems like it is better for them than living on the streets.

I love that someone in this tower has hauled three or four hundred pounds of weightlifting equipment up this tower. That’s a big giant undertaking.

The link that even sven provided shows that there’s a heliport on the roof. Maybe he brought it in that way. :cool:

At one point in the video I see an inclined plane (wheelchair ramp) and someone pushing a kid on a dolly. If this is provided up to the 28th floor it would be feasible to move heavy objects even using a motorized lift. I’d be concerned about the security, but with the system they are using, maybe it’s safer than elsewhere.

Maybe. It’s not like this is particularly awkward or clumsy equipment, though, and I’ve never heard of a building with ramps that go up above about the sixth floor. I suspect that someone with nothing better to do could simply carry each individual barbell plate up the stairs over a week or two.

How hard would it be to rig up a pulley system out of a window, cinch objects or put them in a bucket, and haul them right up? Wouldn’t surprise me if some residents have installed such a thing. And I doubt the building has many wheelchair ramps – construction halted in, IIRC, 1993, and its not like the Tower was expected to be ADA compliant.

There used to be hundreds of smaller-scale squats all over NYC, and there’s still some today, staying under the radar. With rent like it is, I expect more people to begin squatting again.

I would have to think it’s waaaay better than living on the streets or sleeping under bridges – you come home to a roof over your head, you can put up a door with a lock on it, run electricity and plumbing and live in something approaching human dignity. It’s a shame that the state has failed them so thoroughly that Caracas’ poor are forced to commandeer and reconstruct homes for themselves out of a half-built skyscraper with no elevators.

I found a gallery of images of the Tower of David. Really, it doesn’t look hellholish at all to me. Lots of families, lots of kids.

Check out this kitchen filled with food.

Laundry hung up to dry.

A late riser snoozing away in bed. Notice the brick wall the resident has put up to create an actual bedroom.

Someone’s living room, with photos of their kid, a flower vase, paintings on the wall.

I could easily imagine walking into a living room like thisright here in NYC.

This one looks a little ramshackle, but notice the tiny shoe on the floor – these folks have a toddler. They’ve also rigged up some way to hang their bicycle on the wall. Pretty smart!

Well, a simple rope lift with a bucket on the ground would require about 280 feet of rope to get to the top of a 28 story building and a pulley if you want to be able to pull down and make the load go up, which is easier. If you wanted to rig a simple block-and-tackle system, you’d need two pulleys (one mounted on the bucket) and 560 feet of rope with no knots and good splices that would feed through the pulley. You’d have to pull double the length of rope, but the load would feel half as heavy. If you wanted to go further, you could set up a watch tackle, which needs another pulley and 840 feet of rope, giving you a load that feels one-third as heavy and requires you to pull triple the length of rope. That’s probably about as far as you could go with the kind of equipment a person can just buy at the hardware store; going further would probably simply increase your losses due to friction over your gains from mechanical advantage.

ADA evidently not, but it was supposed to be a luxury building. One of the items in which I’ve seen luxury buildings be ahead of the pack is ease of access.

Well, I wasn’t neccesarily imagining a pulley from the 28th floor – that’s the highest occupied floor. But there’s people living on the ground floor on up, and I imagine it’s entirely possible some of them have installed pulleys.

This articleprovides some more info as to how the Tower of David operates. There’s a parking deck that reaches as high as the tenth floor, so residents can take motorcycle taxis or presumably their own vehicles (which some own, and have parked in the parking garage) up that high to bring in groceries, furniture, and other supplies. The ground floor houses a daycare center, a church, and a basketball court. They’re also outfitting it for volleyball and soccer.

It seems like the plumbing and sewage system are the biggest problems. Considering they’re rigged out of improvised materials, that’s no surprise. Wastewater pipes were installed in one of the empty elevator shafts and the sewage runs down that.

I’m guessing there are probably some residents who make a living as porters and get paid for carrying stuff up the stairs all day.