Torre David, a 45-story skyscraper in Caracas, has remained uncompleted since the Venezuelan economy collapsed in 1994. Today, it is the improvised home to more than 750 families living in an extra-legal and tenuous squat, that some have called a “vertical slum.”
Urban-Think Tank, the authors of Torre David: Informal Vertical Communities, spent a year studying the physical and social organization of this ruin-become home. Richly illustrated with photographs by Iwan Baan, the book documents the residents’ occupation of the tower and how, in the absence of formal infrastructure, they organize themselves to provide for daily needs, with a hair salon, a gym, grocery shops, and more.
Iwan Baan‘s name may ring a bell for all those following Hurricane Sandy’s devastation across New York City and New Jersey’s coast. The photographer’s iconic photograph made headlines when it was featured on New York magazine’s front page days after the storm, showing lower Manhattan in complete darkness, set against its vibrant counterpart uptown, as the United States’ east coast was recovering from the extensive damage left in Sandy’s wake. The image not only brings to mind the absolute helplessness that New York City faced during the storm, but also lends a hand in a social commentary that is notably pervasive in Baan’s work.
Starting February 20th, 2013, The Perry Rubenstein Gallery in Los Angeles will feature the Baan’s work in his first, two-month exhibition entitled The Way We Live, honing in on the images that encapsulate the world of architecture, urbanism and human engagement.
More on Iwan Baan: The Way We Live after the break.
Last year, thanks to a photo essay by architecture photographer Iwan Baan featured in the New York Magazine, the world became aware of a dramatic urban context in Caracas, Venezuela, the result of a lack of available housing: The Torre David (David Tower). The tower, built as the headquarters of the Confinanzas Group during the economic boom of the 90s, was left unfinished after the company went bankrupt in 1994, placing the building in a murky legal void where its ownership was put into question. Since 2000, the tower has suffered looting and decay; the public take-over culminated with the occupation of the tower by more than 2,500 people in 2007.
For over a year, Urban-Think Tank studied how the tower’s mixed-use occupation worked, with improvised apartments, shops, and even a gym on the terrace. The community operates under the strict rules imposed by the informal tenants, who have been accused by many Venezuelans of being nothing more than criminals.
Invited by curator Justin McGuirk, Urban-Think Tank recreated ‘Gran Horizonte’, a restaurant in the Torre de David, at the Arsenale of the Venice Biennale. The restaurant serves the same traditional food as the original, while photos by Iwan Baan reveals tenants’ day-to-day lives, immersing visitors into the tower.
The installation explores how the informal settlement works in ways the building’s architect never would have conceived, and posits that the informal dynamics found in emerging countries could serve as a vital source of innovation and experimentation for urban problems in our hyper-urbanized world.
The project has been highly controversial among the Venezuelan architecture community, as shown by the letters and articles in local newspapers reproduced at the installation, and on the Internet. Most of these letters’ authors claim that the project supports the illegal occupation and depicts a distorted image of Venezuela’s reality. But, on the other hand, the Venezuela Pavilion at the Biennale showed only cheerful paintings and images of propaganda, avoiding its purpose: to critically observe and stir debate. The controversy between the two visions only further highlights the current polarity in Venezuelan society, particularly on this issue of urbanization.
More from the architects after the break:
You may remember Sou Fujimoto Architects radical House NA from this video we shared with you last November. Designed for a young couple in a quiet Tokyo neighborhood, the 914 square-foot transparent house contrasts the typical concrete block walls seen in most of Japan’s dense residential areas. Associated with the concept of living within a tree, the spacious interior is comprised of 21 individual floor plates, all situated at various heights, that satisfy the clients desire to live as nomads within their own home.
Continue after the break for more images and information on House NA.
Architects: ALA Architects
Location: Kristiansand, Norway
Completion: July 2011
Competition Team: ALA Architects ltd, Juho Grönholm, Antti Nousjoki, Janne Teräsvirta, Samuli Woolston
Project Team: ALA Architects ltd / Helsinki, Kristians
In Collaboration With: SMS Arkitekter AS / Kristiansand
Client: Teater- og Konserthus for Sørlandet IKS
Photographs: Iwan Baan
From Iwan Baan‘s website we are bringing you two more projects by 2012 Pritzker laureate, Wang Shu: The Ceramic House (Coffee House) in the Jinhua Architecture Park, where Ai Wei Wei, working as the curator, brought together 16 architects from around the world to create a pavilion-city along the banks of the river Yiwu; and the Zhongshan Road renovation in Hangzhou.
Some more photographs after the break, and the complete photoset on Iwan’s website.
Architects: Selgas Cano
Location: Cartagena, Spain
Project Architect: Jose Selgas, Lucía Cano
Project Team: Lara Resco, José de Villar, José Jaraiz, Lorena del Río, Blas Antón, Miguel San Millán, Carlos Chacón, Julián Fernandez, Beatriz Quintana, Jaehoon Yook, Jeongwoo Choi, Laura Culiañez, Bárbara Bardín
Architectural Assistant: Antonio Mármol, Joaquín Cárceles, Rául Jiménez
Site Area: 5,628 sqm
Total Square Footage: 18,500 sqm
Budget: 34.5 Euro
Photographs: Iwan Baan
Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Project Design: Bjarne Mastenbroek & Uda Visser
Assistants: Remco Wieringa, Ton Gilissen, Louis Toebosch, Stefano Tropea, Thomas van Schaick, Wesley Lanckriet, Marie Louise Mejlholm, Laura Álvarez Rodríguez, Pedro Carvalho dos Santos, Alexandra Schmitz
Client: Liberaal Joodse Gemeente Amsterdam
Contractor: Bouwbedrijf M.J. de Nijs & Zn. B.V
Project Area: 3400 sqm
Project Year: 2010
Photographs: Iwan Baan
Iwan Baan, who has photographed many well-known architectural works, many which have been featured on ArchDaily, recently shot the Hiroshi Senju Museum, designed by Tokyo based architect Ryue Nishizawa who won the Pritzker Prize in 2010 and is known for his works of various scales throughout Japan.. The museum opened in October 2011 and possesses around 100 works by Hiroshi, a Japanese painter known for his large scale waterfall paintings. More photos of the museum can be viewed after the break and the complete photoset in Iwan’s website.
The AIA Honor Award recipients for 2012 were announced this week and will be honored at the AIA 2012 National Convention and Design Exposition in Washington, D.C. The award recognizes works that exemplify excellence in architecture, interior architecture and urban design. Twenty-seven recipients were selected from over seven-hundred submissions.
Continue after the break to view the awarded buildings.
Architect: Johan De Wachter Architects
Location: Jinhua City, China
Client: Government of Jindong New District, Jinhua City
Organizer: Ai Weiwei, Herzog&DeMeuron
Principal Designer/s: Johan De Wachter
Design Team: Pei Liu
Collaboration: Fundc, ABT Velp
Site Area: 1500 sqm
Project Area: 600 sqm
Project Year: 2007
Photographs: Iwan Baan, Philip Fung, Johan De Wachter
Architects: MASS Design Group
Location: Burera District, Rwanda
Client: Rwandan Ministry of Health; Partners In Health / Inshuti Mu Buzima
Sewage Plant Engineering: EcoProtection
Landscape Design: Sierra Bainbridge and Maura Rockcastle
Design Team: Michael Murphy, Alan Ricks, Sierra Bainbridge, Marika Clark, Ryan Leidner, Garret Gantner, Cody Birkey, Ebbe Strathairn, Maura Rockcastle, Dave Saladik, Alda Ly, Robert Harris, Commode Dushimimana, Nicolas Rutikanga
Structural Engineering: ICON
Project Year: 2011
Project Area: 6,040 sqm
Photographs: Iwan Baan, MASS Design Group
Over the years the Vitra Campus has become an architecture museum, featuring works by the most renowned architects: Frank Ghery, Zaha Hadid, Alvaro Siza, Tadao Ando, Jean Pruvé, Nicholas Grimshaw, Buckminster Fuller and SANAA (under construction).
The latest addition to the complex is the VitraHaus building, a series of stacked pitched-roof boxed, designed by Herzog & de Meuron for Vitra’s Home Collection:
The Teshima Art Museum designed by Tokyo-based architect Ryue Nishizawa and Japanese artist Rei Naito opened in 2010 for the Setouchi International Art Festival that was held in the Takamatsu Port area of Japan. The open gallery space features 25cm thick concrete shell with two elliptical openings that are open to elements. Iwan Baan shows on his website a great photo set of the art museum which can be viewed here.
More of Iwan Baan’s photographs following the break, as well as a video of the Teshima Art Museum while under construction.
New Yorkers can’t get enough of James Corner Field Operations with Diller Scofidio + Renfro‘s High Line as millions meandered along the refurbished rail tracks enjoying spectacular views of the skyline. And yet, the opening of the High Line in 2009 offered a mere preview of the project’s total grandeur as parts two and three of the 1.45 mile project were still to come. Today, the second phase of the High Line has opened to the public – a section which stretches from West 20th up to West 28th Street. This segment includes a hovering frame that will display people’s silhouettes against the evening sky, an elevated pathway which brings visitors to the level of the trees’ canopy, and a Great Lawn which will be perfect for sun-bathing and a summer time picnic.