The High-Rise and The Shack: Rhizomatic Collisions In Caracas’ Torre David

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Irazábal, C., I. Sosa, and L. Schlenker. “The High-Rise and The Shack: Rhizomatic Collisions In Caracas’ Torre David.” ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies. 19(1): 1-34, 2020.


A 45-story tower in Caracas formerly occupied by some 5,000 squatters, Torre David was touted by international media accounts as the world’s most spectacular “vertical slum.” This, among other sensationalized accounts, failed to consider the paradoxical ways in which Caracas’ formal and informal, urban and architectural trajectories literally collided with each other in Torre David. The modern high-rise and the self-built shack—antagonist spatial typologies in Caracas’ growth—were dramatically superposed in the tower, unleashing hitherto un(fore)seen dynamics. Through site fieldwork, interviews, film production, media analysis, and historical research, we offer a nuanced theorization of Torre David that grapples with its charged tensions between the formal and informal, modern and traditional, modernity and postmodernity, reality and imagination, and capitalism and socialism. We begin our investigation with a historical account of the tower’s construction, abandonment, and ultimate occupation. This is followed by a theoretical positioning of Torre David as a social and physical space ‘in-between’. Ultimately, we argue that these tensions created a rhizomatic socio-spatial field heavily pregnant with both risks and hopes for the people, the government, and the spatial disciplines.