Ingenious Homes In Unexpected Places
Architecture has the capacity to influence the places in which they sit. New cities like Dubai, ancient cities like Rome, even the New York skyline have inspired urban documentarian Iwan Baan. He's travelled the world documenting some of the most interesting urban sprawls and providing us with a window to the four corners of the globe we could only dream of getting to experience.
What is more interesting is what happens when architects and planners leave their work unfinished- sometimes these places become populated. Chandigarh, India is one example. The buildings have been taken over by people in different ways, completely opposite to what they were intended for.
The Olympic city in Beijing, was designed for the 2008 games by Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron who won the bidding process in 2003. The large scale construction site in China took years to complete and the workers were expected to live here until complete. They created a rough and informal city of their own, making quite a juxtaposition to the sophisticated structure they were building.
Over the past 8 years Iwan has been following these unusual urban sprawls. 4 years ago he went to Caracas Venezuela, which some of you may recognise as a location from the US drama series Homeland. Iwan visited the Tower of David aka Torre David. The slums in Caracas reach into every corner of the city. 70% of the population live in poverty. The slums even drape over the mountains.
The 45 story building that is the Tower of David soars well above the slums and sits in the centre of Caracas. The building was under construction until the collapse of the Venezuelan economy and the death of the developer in the early 90's. And about 9 years ago, people started moving into the abandoned skyscraper and amazingly began to build their homes in between every column and floor.
Together the community created public spaces and designed them to feel more like a home and less concrete. In the lobby of the Tower of David, they painted the walls as far as they could reach and planted trees. They also have a basket ball court. Within the tower, people have come up with all kinds of solutions for the various needs that arise from living in an unfinished tower. No elevators means residents have a 45 story walk up. The inhabitants have found a unique way of getting by. The tower has become a living city- a place which is alive with micro economies and small businesses. They've even created a taxi shuttle service in the adjacent car park to make it easier to get up and down the building to their homes.
The greatest observation that Ivan had was that these locals with no formal education had actually built walls and designed airflow systems to adapt to the changes in weather in the region. The tower has all kinds of services including a barber, small clothing factories, every floor has a grocery shop, a church and even a gym on the 30th floor. All the weights in the gym have been made using the lift shaft materials that were never used. These amazing locals have created homes in an organic, intuitive way that relates directly to their needs.