Derelict Tower of David – once home to thousands of squatters

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Saúl Briceño - CC BY 2.0

Bearing the name of Torre de David is a skyscraper complex that was never finished. Located in Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, these skyscrapers are the third tallest in all of Venezuela right after the Parque Central Complex. Building work on this structure began in 1990, ceased in 1994, and was never restarted.

Where thousands of squatters once lived. Author: The Photographer – CC0

The main investor in this project was David Brillembourg; he was diagnosed with cancer and died in 1993 and this is why this skyscraper became known as “The Tower of David”. When the Venezuelan 1994 banking crisis happened, the government of Venezuela took over control of the banks. As a direct result of this, the construction of this skyscraper was terminated.

The structures themselves were left without any running water, electricity, or elevators. The balconies were left semi-finished with no railings and the towers had no windows. In some parts of this building, whole sections are missing walls.

A squatter hanging his clothes. Author: Saúl Briceño – CC BY 2.0

In essence, the tower of David is a complex comprised of six buildings. Two towers called Torre A and B, two separated structures called Edificio K and Z, the Lobby, and a parking lot that stands some 12 stories above street level.

Since the project was abandoned, the skyscrapers themselves were neglected and abandoned. In no time they became a favorite place for squatters. At the start of the new millennium, the city of Caracas was faced with a shortage in the housing market.

Angle view of Torre de David. Author: EneasMx – CC BY-SA 4.0

The construction of new homes was placed on pause. This led to the creation of the so-called squatters that with time started to move into the abandoned skyscrapers. A huge percentage of these unlawful tenants were ex-convicts. A the start of 2007, there were around 200 families that took on the form of squatters.

The unfinished Tower of David. Author: The Photographer – CC0

These people were clever enough to install a water system that was able to push the water up, reaching the 22nd floor. Some of them even used motorcycles to reach the 10th floor but unfortunately they have to use the stairs to reach the rest of the floors.

Part of the interior. Author: Saúl Briceño – CC BY 2.0

There are even people that run their own convenience store from within the buildings, and the community even had its own dentist. Some of these tenants had their vehicles that they parked in the complex’s garage.

According to newyorker.com the towers were under the watchful eye of a gangster – “The boss of the Tower is an ex-criminal turned evangelical pastor named Alexander (El Niño) Daza.”

The balconies of the skyscrapers. Author: The Photographer – CC0

At the start of 2011, this complex was home to some 2,500 people and at its peak, there were around 5,000 people living inside the towers. During the summer of 2014, the government of Venezuela started a project to relocate the squatters to the city of Cúa where new homes were provided for them.

It took a whole year  but finally in 2015 all of the unlawful residents were moved out. Once the skyscrapers were emptied, the Tal Cual – Venezuelan newspaper – wrote in an article that a number of Chinese banks wanted to buy the skyscrapers as their idea was to revamp the towers and retain their initial use.

The tower of David adorned with banners stating Chavez Lives. Author: Hernán Zamora – CC BY-SA 2.0

In 2015 Ernesto Emilio Villegas Poljak a journalist and politician announced that “Torre de David” would temporarily be used as an emergency care center.

In 2016, another annulment was made in which it was clearly stated that the Chinese investment was canceled. A couple of documentaries were made about this complex among which is the winner of the Golden Lion, Torre David. This complex was even featured in TED Talk and made an appearance in the BBC documentary Our World.

To this very day, the Centro Financiero Confinanzas remains an unfinished concrete shell, an urban ghost with its future still uncertain.