martes, 7 de agosto de 2012

Carta de Jimmy Alcock a Alfredo Brillembourg y su "think-tank"

Queridos Amigos,

Mi respuesta a la "promoción" que se está haciendo  el arquitecto Alfredo Brillembourg, con su "think-tank", en la Bienal de Venecia 2012 : "Torre David: Gran Horizonte".

Lamento que un arquitecto venezolano, calificado, tome este rumbo contra su país, justifique y a la vez  promueva internacionalmente las invasiones que están continuamente ejecutándose en Venezuela y llevándola a bienales internacionales.

Jimmy Alcock


Hola Alfredo,

Me está llegando un correo sobre la "Torre de David Gran Horizonte".
Tengo entendido que tú eres uno de los promotores de esta exposición. Lamento que tú estés involucrado en el descrédito de la Arquitectura venezolana y el destrozo de esta gran obra, aupándola como :

"A Symbol of the Neo-liberal failure and the poor´s self - empowerment with its mangnificient defficiences. It represents an oportunity to reconsider how we create and foster urban communities".

Me imagino que ahora aprobarás la invasión del edificio de tu familia que fue invadido hace un tiempo en los Palos Grandes y que tanta rabia te causó.

Malos augurios para tu "Think-tank". Lamento que hayas tomado otro rumbo en tu profesión, por tus deseos de figuración.

Qué lástima que un miembro de  esa  gran familia  a la que perteneces, y que tanto quiero, haya desviado sus objetivos. También, te auguro que no llegarás a nada y serás despreciado por los profesionales serios en Venezuela.

Jimmy Alcock
Arquitecto y Venezolano


Our proposal is to create a vibrant social space in the unlikeliest of settings – the hushed, high-art context of the Corderie. In short, we propose a restaurant. Food is a social leveller, and sharing a meal is the most convivial way to exchange ideas.
Our restaurant will be a piece of Caracas – a piece of the economic south – but also common ground.

This project draws on Urban Think Tank’s extensive research into the Torre Confinanzas, also known as the Torre de David. This unfinished 45-storey skyscraper, built as a banking headquarters in Caracas in the 1990s, has been squatted and is now a “vertical slum” and a vibrant community. The Torre de David is a symbol of neoliberal failure and of the poor’s self-empowerment. With its magnificent deficiencies, it represents an opportunity to reconsider how we create and foster urban communities.
Our proposal is to recreate a piece of the Torre de David in the biennale – as if the tower had a restaurant. This fictional replica restaurant will be a symbolic piece of the economic south in the rarified setting of the biennale, but it will be a place that visitors will enjoy, where they can eat, drink and generally taste South America. The restaurant will be called Gran Horizonte (an actual restaurant in Caracas). This “grand horizon” is a reference to the global south ever looking towards a political equator, beyond which is the economic north.

We will build the restaurant out of appropriately humble materials, with a working kitchen and an authentic Venezuelan menu. As part of this mise-en-scène, we will exhibit a series of photographs taken by Iwan Baan of the Torre de David. As in all Latin American street-food stalls and cheap restaurants, there will be TVs in the corners of the room. Instead of the local football match (or perhaps along with the football) the TVs will show a series of short films about the tower created by Urban Think Tank. These include, footage of a community meeting where residents discuss their occupation as belonging to a tradition of the commons that predates the Conquistadors.
The restaurant will employ a Venezuelan cook and manager and will run as a selfsustaining business along the pop-up restaurant model for the three months of the biennale. We will also create a crowd-sourcing website on which volunteers can register to take part either as waiters or assistants.

The question of the commons in Latin America is generally understood to be one of natural resources. Thus water and gas in Bolivia, the rainforest in Ecuador and oil in Venezuela and Brazil have been points of conflict between peoples or their governments and the corporate interests exploiting these resources. But is there an urban commons? In the battleground of the city, how often does the right to housing prevail over the market forces that routinely push citizens into slums on the periphery? The case of Torre Confinanzas, known as Torre David, in Caracas, suggests that there is a new model of urban living that gives citizens a more equitable share in the city.

Torre David is a 47-storey banking headquarters that was never completed and has subsequently been squatted by 2,500 citizens who would otherwise be living in the barrios. Here is a symbol of finance capitalism, a lightning rod for the neoliberalisation of the city, being occupied by those who are ordinarily disenfranchised by it: the poor. The fact that they continue to live in this state of precarious privilege, with penthouse views in the centre of Caracas – albeit on a dangerous construction site – can only be explained by Venezuela’s demagogic politics. Chavez not only tolerates but has encouraged civilian occupations of empty buildings and other symbols of private interest, such as shopping malls and golf courses. While such populism ostensibly empowers the people – at the expense of any sense of order in Caracas – it does so in the most fragile and illusory way, without legal substantiation. This tacit agreement depends on the figure of the patriarch, one whose body is riddled with cancer.

The residents of Torre David are only too aware of the perils of “Chavismo”. That is why they look to a higher authority. Like much of the squatter’s movement in Caracas, the Torre is managed by a Pentecostal cadre that views the occupation of empty spaces as a religious duty. Despite their grassroots radicalism this is also in effect a withdrawal from the unreliable terrain of the political, a symptom of the loss of trust between the electorate and the state. Instead, they return to atavistic models. At one community meeting, which began with a prayer, a young man stood up and placed the Torre in the tradition of the pre-Columbian communes. This rhetoric of self-reliance and religious anarchism is a prophylactic against the idea that Chavez can protect them.

In the meantime, while they continue their occupation and fight for their legal status, they are sustaining an experiment that may be of crucial value to cities of the future. For Torre David is an urban laboratory. From São Paulo to Shanghai, the cities of the world are pincushions for speculative office towers that are surplus to requirements, empty castles in a game of fictitious capital. The Torre is an early trial in how they might be put to better use, and one approach to the absence of social housing in the city centre. It embodies two divergent directions in one symbol: the vertical axis of the tower and the horizontal force of its social redistribution.

Torre David: Gran Horizonte seeks to communicate some of this potential. It is both common ground and testing ground. The installation aims to simulate the Torre’s collision of ideas and people. The conceit is to recreate a street café as if on the 47th floor of the tower. Food is our medium for creating a social space, but, in the context of Venezuela, food is also political. The national dish, pabellon criollo – white rice, black beans and brown carne mechada – is a literal manifestation of the racial make-up. It is common ground on a plate. Gran Horizonte – the name of an actual restaurant in Caracas – is both the literal Grand Horizon of the city viewed from the top of this tower, and, much more importantly, the metaphorical horizon viewed from the economic south.

Look north from Caracas and you’ll find the political equator. We all know that the majority of urban growth this century will take place below that line. But what form will it take? Urban Think Tank argues that the distinction between the formal and informal cities will begin to dissolve. In which case there is no better exemplar than Torre David, a vertical village occupying the quintessentially formal framework
of the skyscraper. Similarly, there may be no more relevant context than Caracas. The late Venezuelan architect Tomas Sanabria used to refer to a condition he called “ranchosis”, a term he extrapolated from the rancho, or slum dwelling. Ranchosis, then, is the slumification of the city by those who carry the slums in their heads, no matter where they live. It is the inhabitation of a skyscraper without the facility that makes a skyscraper possible – the elevator. Ranchosis is a condition that leads UTT to occasionally describe Caracas as 100 per cent informal.

Torre David is the readymade of a concept that UTT once tried to create from scratch. The Growing House, begun for the Anglican Church in Caracas, aspired to be precisely this concrete framework in which people could build their own walls. Here it is, concept realised. Of course Torre David was only ever a temporary commons, a first-come-first-served free for all that soon became a gated community. But it remains a potent symbol of how direct action can turn vertical exclusivity into horizontal redistribution. By subverting our understanding of what a skyscraper is – no elevator, no facade, no services – Torre David becomes a new possibility: the skyscraper not as beacon of finance capital but social capital.

Urban Think Tank

1 comentario:

  1. Lo que me parece positivo de esta discusión es que al fin se escuchen los diferentes puntos de vista sobre las decisiones gubernamentales que permiten y aupan la invasión de inmuebles.
    Estoy segura que las posturas expuestas en este Blog son malentendidos causados por no entender lo planteado cómo exposición en la Bienal. Se resaltan frases y se colocan fuera del contenido.
    LA UTT estudia a La Torre de David como ejemplo de caos urbano promovido por el gobierno y, si esto sirve para que los profesionales y el público participen con sus ideas, entonces el debate es bienvenido.