Iwan Baan on "architecture
without architects"


In a movie Dezeen filmed at his Golden Lion-winning installation in collaboration with Justin McGuirk and Urban-Think Tank at the Venice Architecture Biennale, architectural photographer Iwan Baan talks about how residents have built their own homes between the columns and floor plates of the unfinished Torre David skyscraper in Caracas.

Iwan Baan on "architecture without architects"

"It's basically a whole city they built in there," he says while describing the homes, shops, church, hair salon (above) and gym the 3000 residents have created, each inventing their own construction techniques to create "a sort of architecture without architects".

Iwan Baan on "architecture without architects"

He tells how residents start by putting up curtains and tents (above), then build walls when they get chance, creating a patchwork facade where "every person decorates their place in their own way." Construction halted before services were installed, including elevators, so taxis drive residents up and down in an adjoining 50-storey car park.

Iwan Baan on "architecture without architects"

Baan's photographs will be published in a book on the tower called Torre David: Informal Vertical Communities, written by Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner of Urban-Think Tank.

Iwan Baan on "architecture without architects"

Critic Justin McGuirk talks about how the project could set an example for new forms of urban housing in our earlier movie, asking "why should the majority of the poor in countries like Venezuela be forced to live in the slums around the edge of cities if there are empty office towers in the city centres?”

Iwan Baan on "architecture without architects"

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  • Concerned Citizen

    It’s just moving from one slum to another, only this one is 50 times as dangerous.

  • DDV

    For some ingenuous architects this is a romantic exercise of design, but for them is just a simple matter of surviving. Same results can be found in any slum around the world but this catch the eye of fancy designers because is located in a large, pretentious and unfinished architecture. It is the sad result of political, social and economical failures, but for the Venice Biennale deserves an award. What was awarded here?

    • Adnarim

      Since when was a documentation of an event or space not been the result of a political, social, or economic consequence? I’m confused by your response. You say they have only looked at this space because of it’s unique context being in a large half finished tower block with wide open spaces… well yeah, it’s unique, and with that comes an new and interesting perspective to how people create spaces without direction.

      Agreed that this is a result of poverty, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be recorded. On the contrary, it deserves more of our attention to address to issues that occur in these surroundings, but also to celebrate the ability of people to someone pick through the wasteland that they are left with to create a space a home. Again I’m not sure anyone, including our ‘fancy designers’, are arguing that this is a place that everyone should live in, or anyone should live in, but does raise questions about how people live, build communities, and attempt to survive when people are given little hope by the state and the communities at large.

  • Jamie Ack-Harv

    What an amazing, post-apocalyptic situation! It's a romantic idea, though surely not so perfect in practice.

  • ratatat

    Architecture without architects – what a wonderful world!

  • carsten

    Without architects?… surely not. Who designed the structure they are living in?

  • Adriana

    I think is dangerous to life in a unfinished building without any time of maintenance… it’s a crazy, ugly and poor idea! The solution is not to move from slums to a tower (in Caracas the slums are not at the edge, there are all over! Mostly in the center, the rich people live at the edge not the poor).

    The direction of these article as the idea it’s wrong… It’s sad the government use these as examples, should we celebrate how they create a space home? These places are very but very dangerous. I’m sure half the criminality of the city is born there (60 dead by week as average in Caracas).

  • abc

    Where are the toilets? Where did the water and electricity come from? Those would be questions I would like to know.

  • Javier

    Opportunism by these “architects”.

  • Matt

    I think this article raises an important question about how community is created in cities. Here in London for example, the speculative developer model is resulting in a lot of anonymous building stock with people buying to let or for investment purposes. People often don’t know their neighbours. Anonymous buildings make anonymous cities.

    The people living in this tower in Caracas may be living in poverty, but out of necessity an architecture is emerging that is far more dynamic and is a result of a collective community need. Small shops have emerged within the tower; a taxi service takes people up the first 15 floors due to lack of elevators; the facade becomes varied and interesting because individual inhabitants decide how it should be built. This is exciting and interesting. Forget about the poor and unsafe conditions for a moment and recognise the value to architecture in such an ad-hoc approach

    London may be a wealthy city, but there is massive housing poverty. People are desperate to buy and rent but simply can’t afford to. I would like to see what would happen if you built basic structure and services (sanitation, electric, etc..) and than let people inhabit it by their own means. How would this transform areas that are becoming overly gentrified? Or do people want to live in sanitised cities?