Papel LITERARIO PAG.2                                                                                                                                EL NACIONAL Sábado, 14 de abril de 2012  

Ángela Bonadies & Juan José Olavarría

about David’s Tower

by Félix Suazo

Two years on from starting the project “David’s Tower”, during which time it was exhibited in New York (2010), Rio de Janeiro, Caracas and Dubai (2011), what conclusions have you drawn from the experience in relation to your initial expectations?

AB/JJO: We didn’t have any expectations when we started this project because we felt driven to do it. The way it has developed has been very strange because it has been exhibited in bits and has become a never-ending source for work and for reflecting on. We’ve never shown the same works in two shows. The work has changed over time because it’s alive and this is an effect of the tower’s own organic nature. We felt that it couldn’t be any other way. The tower has become a symbol, beyond the building and the state it’s in. It has become a representation of the country that has gone beyond the tower in physical terms. Perhaps the conclusion is that you have to get away from the obvious areas of the issue and get into its lexicon, into what you read between the lines, the alarm bells it sets off, the social fabric, the grass roots. In visual terms, we’re not interested in landing on the tower’s heliport or making spectacular or aerial photographs. We’re interested in the grass roots, in delving into the struts, thinking about the plot of land that was there before the tower, thinking about the capital, the city, the country and the promises that are made.

How would you evaluate the reception the project has got with the media and specialist critics? As artists, where has the emphasis been placed: on the spectacular elements of the problem you’re dealing with and the strategies you applied to make the work or in the actual works themselves (drawings, photographs, collages, objects) that were the outcome of the project?

AB/JJO: The way the work was received is really interesting and has often been the most disappointing part of the project. The media turned the tower into a sensationalist news story. Not in terms of our work, but in the way they treat the tower as a freak of architecture. It’s a really frivolous angle to take on it because it does not go to the roots of the issue but exploits it by using alarming, brutal headlines that show no respect at all for the people who live there, for our work, or for a situation that reflects a broken social fabric.

Specialist critics have approached the project in various ways. The first important publication was in Domus magazine, which featured an extensive interview by Jesús Fuenmayor that can be read in the print version, on the web and on our blog. We were also lucky enough to have the Joseph Grima’s editor’s column set our project in context. It was really important to have that angle on it to say: architecture has to get back into the kitchen and get dirty, serve people, and not build monuments to the status quo. That’s the sort of reading that motivates us. Here in Venezuela, we’ve also had in depth critiques like the one you did and Lisa Blackmore’s text. And we’ve had support from lots of architects, researchers and academics, who have ended up being closest to the project. It’s a project that seeks to distance itself from the traditional way of making art in order to span different disciplines and turn itself into thoughts, ideas, projections, texts, artistic speculation and debate. The way we’ve worked has been to translate what we want to represent onto different formats. Naturally it’s subjective and ambiguous because, as we wrote in one of our texts, the tower is a story that pushes the limits between fiction and reality and between really basic meanings like sheltered-unsheltered, security-insecurity, wall-curtain, window-void. Just like Venezuela.

To answer your question: each media outlet provided its own angle on the work according to what it was interested in. The superficial ones play on the outward form and the tower’s spectacular potential. The biased ones lead people to see what they want them to see. Academics and specialists go in-depth, ask questions and discuss. Many people just shut their eyes.

It’s also interesting to see how the tower has become a site for a kind of adventure urban tourism. People call us up and want to have us meet them at the tower, as if we had the right to do that. We get calls from all over and all we feel is shame. Out only answer is “no”.

How relevant and/or effective do you think art is when trying to deal with situations that go beyond the rituals of the art world, and, in this case, issues of the housing demands of a large part of the population in the face of ambiguous and inefficient institutional policies? What are the opportunities and limitations that art offers in order to subvert, ease, or make these conflicts visible?

AB/JJO: Relevance: total. Efficiency: that doesn’t depend on us, but we do our job, which is to shed light on, make visible, put into focus, open the drawer, work with dusty archives and put them on a shelf, on a wall, or on paper. Seeing, thinking, remembering and trying to put loose ends together.  It’s not just about the tower as an illegal squat, it’s about the tower as a grid, as modernity re-invented, geometric abstraction turning into a barrio, the fortunes made in the 1980s, the tower as a failed promise made by private capital and a shipwreck of inefficient verbose socialism that we are being drowned in.

We can’t subvert conflicts using art, but we can reveal them and put them under a magnifying glass. But this project belongs to everyone, to the private sector, to the State, to universities and to people. We have to think about Venezuela without being superficial and each take actions from our own field. Neither the president, a businessman, nor a bunch of urban planners are going to sort out the housing crisis. It’s not a job for caudillo strongmen or celebrities, it’s Fuenteovejuna.

Bearing in mind that both of you who make up this creative duo have your own baggage in terms of your artistic background and a set of quite different tools, how did you go about thinking up and producing works together?

AB/JJO: The first thing we did was to discuss the project to come to an agreement about the essential elements, the focus and the aperture. Then the issue of producing work was more complex because obviously we use different materials and in some way the first show was quite varied in a formal sense. But that also makes senses because on that’s what the tower’s like on the inside: on one hand you have the grid structure of the original building that is breaking up to reveal a new typology. It’s like reading the Otero vs. Otero Silva debate come through1, without declaring either of their positions, abstract and figurative –a brutal national trend, especially in art collections-, as the winner, but to watch them co-exist. Heterotopy as narrative.

Then we managed to get over the comfort that our normal formats gave us and started to developed “elective affinities” and we began to create installations and hybridized ideas where we both work together. We devised a choreography and scenography to the tower’s rhythm: the rhythm of “sorting problems out”.

The shift from field work (visits, conversations, gathering data, etc.) to showing working is mediated by an editing process that removes some elements and recreates others in function of their aesthetic effectiveness. What criteria did you use to create the works to be exhibited? Does this imply that there is an unresolvable inside and outside that means that society and art can never quite come together?

AB/JJO: Each time we exhibited the project, it took on another form, and we think this is important. In Caracas, in the group show Menos tiempo que lugar we exhibited a drawing made with pencil directly on the wall, like a sort of ephemeral billboard, like Ulpiano signwriting on museum walls. We’re interested in underlining the transitory, which Cabrujas expressed so well in his texts on Caracas. “Nobody came to stay for too long”, he wrote, and this rings true. Gabriela Montero’s impressive, improvised works are also reminiscent of this. The coincidences are not chance occurrences. Her works remain engraved like unique, spontaneous and unrepeatable works, just as ours was photographed and then disappeared, just like Venezuelans’ collective memory where everything disappears after a while. That’s why we sometimes feel terribly old. Our tradition hasn’t even been around for thirty years. That’s why we sometimes feel forever young. Eternally transitory. And, especially in Caracas, everybody wanted to see the tower, the thousands of photos, the drama and morbidity of it. And if the tower is in Caracas, it’s right under our noses. That is just weird.

Then, you go inside the tower and you don’t see the tower, you see fragments of it. The tower disappears and a different, vertical barrio appears, with concrete corridors instead of sidewalks that have an entrance and exist; but it’s a barrio nonetheless. To get to know the tower you first have to go to a barrio and a jail – two concepts and norms that are brought together in the space. The tower is several things at once: a building, a barrio, a jail, a church, and a hotel. Inside it are dogmas and norms, not a constitution. Inside it there is faith.
It always changes, depending on what it represents at that particular moment. Faith, the norms, the prison. To answer your question: we didn’t have a single criterion. There doubts and possible routes and that’s what we expressed. In the New York show we exhibited drawings and photographic montages of its morphology. In Madrid, we divided the inside and outside, and the outside became a souvenir because as soon as you go inside all the symbolism and reflections completely change. In Rio de Janeiro we showed an austere, didactic leaflet that showed how the tower was thought up and what it turned into, along with a text that set out a timeline of the tower. In Dubai we showed a huge printed image that included a text, photos and archive images from the original project for the tower. Now we’re going to Mexico, where we’re going to make an installation of a destroyed advertising hoarding placed alongside the brightly-colored clothes lines. The tower itself goes into the background and dissolves into the broader and complex context of this research.

Our county is on the outside and inside of this skyscraper – decadent and carnivalesque, sad and festive, motionless and living. Nothing here is unconnected; it’s all joined up but with a fracture in the tibia and the fibula. Pathologies are also organic and organized forms and structures.

That’s what our method is like - a bit scientific. We are exhibiting what we think are the symptoms of our pathology. And yes, considering that our material is, quite simply, “common life, which is real life”, that inspired Virginia Woolf.

Beyond what it should and can provide, in our daily, common life the State has encouraged fantasy and the dogma of faith. The government sells us the image that it is profoundly inclusive and pays us with exclusion. In his Father Almighty, creator and savior speech, it doesn’t involve the population and consequently leaves us all in the pen of faith and patience. It turns us into beneficiaries or victims when the only thing religion and faith should give us today is “justice”, to quote the erudite Jesuit scholar Michel de Certeau. Instead, we are subjected to the most brutal and unjust uncertainty – that of hope and waiting.


1 “Following a disagreement about the criteria used in awarding the prizes at the XVIII Official Annual Venezuelan Art Salon in 1957, artist Alejandro Otero defended abstract art on the pages of the El Nacional newspaper, with writer and editor of the paper, Miguel Otero Silva. Alejandro Otero had previously published combative articles that had sparked debate, such as with Mario Briceño Iragorry in 1952, but on this occasion, Otero Rodríguez retorted that he criticized abstract artists’ adherence to a style of art ‘signed by evasion’ and the ‘cold greenhouse of repeated forms’.  Cfr. Diccionario Biográfico de las Artes Visuales en Venezuela (Vol. II). Fundación Galería de Arte Nacional, Caracas, 2005, p. 944.

Translator’s notes:
The word barrio is the Venezuelan term to refer to low-income, informal housing in urban areas.

Papel LITERARIO PAG.2                                                                                                            EL NACIONAL Sábado, 14 de abril de 2012  

La Torre de David:
Hablan Ángela Bonadies y Juan José Olavarría

Bonadies y Olavarría han investigado durante meses la Torre de David, ícono arquitectónico caraqueño y a partir de fotografías, dibujos y objetos construyen una propuesta crítica y reflexiva

Por Felix Suazo

Luego de dos años de iniciado el proyecto “La Torre de David”, lapso durante el cual la propuesta ha sido presentada en Nueva York (2010), Madrid, Río de Janeiro, Caracas y Dubai (2011),  ¿qué saldo reflexivo sacan de esta experiencia en relación con sus expectativas iniciales?

AB/JJO: Nosotros partimos sin expectativas al realizar este trabajo, fue una pulsión. Es un trabajo cuyo desarrollo ha sido muy extraño, porque se ha mostrado por partes y se ha convertido en una fuente inagotable, tanto a nivel de producción como de reflexión. Nunca hemos mostrado las mismas piezas en estos lugares, el trabajo ha ido variando, está vivo, de alguna manera responde a la propia organicidad de la torre. Sentimos que no puede ser de otra manera. Consideramos que la torre se convirtió en un símbolo, más allá del edificio y su circunstancia. Se convirtió en una representación del país, que supera su propia materialidad. Quizás el saldo reflexivo es que hay que alejarse de lo evidente del tema y adentrarse en el lenguaje, en lo que allí se puede leer entre líneas, en las alarmas que enciende, en el tejido social, en las bases. Si lo expresamos a través de imágenes, no nos interesa aterrizar en el helipuerto de la torre ni hacer un trabajo espectacular o aéreo, nos interesa ir a las bases, hurgar en las vigas de riostra, antes de la torre, pensar en el terreno, en el capital, en la ciudad, en el país, en las promesas.

¿Cómo evalúan la recepción que ha tenido el proyecto por parte de los medios informativos y la crítica especializada? Según su óptica como creadores ¿dónde se ha situado el énfasis: en la espectacularidad de la problemática abordada, en la estrategia seguida para articular la propuesta o en los productos tangibles (dibujos, fotografías, collages, objetos) que se derivan de esta iniciativa?

AB/JJO: La recepción del trabajo es muy interesante y en muchas ocasiones, lo que más nos ha decepcionado. Por parte de los medios informativos, el caso se ha explotado de manera amarillista. No en relación a nuestro trabajo, sino a lo que consideran un “fenómeno”, un caso de arquitectura “freak”. Esa manera de enforcarlo es muy frívola, porque no toca el fondo sino explota la forma con titulares alarmantes, brutales, sin ningún respeto por las personas que ahí habitan, por nuestro trabajo, por una situación que habla de un tejido social quebrado.

Por otro lado, la crítica especializada ha tomado varios caminos. La primera publicación importante fue la de la revista Domus. Allí apareció una amplia entrevista que nos hizo Jesús Fuenmayor, que se puede consultar en impreso, en la web y ahora en nuestro blog. Además, tuvimos la suerte de que el editorial de Joseph Grima de alguna manera contextualizó nuestra investigación y ese enfoque fue muy importante y venía a decir: la arquitectura tiene que volver a la cocina y ensuciarse, servirle a la gente, no construir monumentos al status quo. Esa es la lectura que nos motiva. Aquí en Venezuela también hemos contado con críticas a fondo como la que tú hiciste y el texto de Lisa Blackmore. Y nos han apoyado muchos arquitectos, investigadores y académicos, que han resultado ser los más cercanos al proyecto. Un proyecto que intenta desvincularse de la manera tradicional de “hacer arte” para abordar muchas disciplinas y convertirse en pensamiento, ideas, proyecciones, textos, especulación plástica, discusión. Nuestra manera de trabajar ha sido la de traducir lo que queremos representar a distintos soportes. Y claro, es subjetivo y ambiguo porque, como apuntamos en uno de nuestros textos, la torre es un relato que vulnera los límites entre ficción y realidad y entre significados tan básicos como amparo-desamparo, seguridad-inseguridad, pared-cortina, ventana-vacío. Como el país.

Respondiendo a tu pregunta: en la recepción del trabajo el acento se ha puesto en aquello que le interesa a cada medio. Los superficiales revientan la forma y la espectacularidad. Los tendenciosos guían a la gente para que vea lo que les interesa. Los académicos o especializados se van al fondo, preguntan, discuten. Muchos cierran los ojos.

Y es interesante también cómo se ha convertido en un lugar para explotar una especie de turismo urbano de aventura. La gente nos llama y quiere citarnos en la torre, como si nosotros tuviéramos ese derecho. Nos llaman de todas partes y uno sólo siente vergüenza. Lo único que podemos decir es “no”.

¿Qué grado de pertinencia y/o eficacia tiene el arte cuando se trata de afrontar situaciones que exceden los rituales del campo artístico, en este caso, aspectos vinculados a la demanda habitacional de un amplio sector de la población frente a una política institucional ambigua e ineficiente? ¿Cuáles son, en definitiva, las oportunidades y limitaciones del arte para subvertir, atenuar o visibilizar tales conflictos?

AB/JJO: Pertinencia: toda. Eficacia: no depende de nosotros, pero hacemos nuestro trabajo. El nuestro es el de iluminar, hacer visible, enfocar, abrir la gaveta, trabajar con los archivos empolvados y ponerlos en una repisa, en una pared, en un papel. Ver, pensar, recordar y tratar de componer con los cabos sueltos. No es sólo la torre como invasión, es la torre como retícula, es la modernidad reventada, es la abstracción geométrica que deviene barrio, son las fortunas de los ochenta, la torre como promesa fallida desde el capital privado y como naufragio del ineficaz socialismo discursivo que nos ahoga.

No es desde el arte desde donde podemos subvertir los conflictos, pero sí mostrarlos y ponerlos en la lupa. Pero es un trabajo de todos, del sector privado, del Estado, de la universidad, de las personas. Hay que pensar el país sin ser superficiales. Actuar desde el terreno de cada uno. No son cuatro urbanistas, ni el presidente, ni un empresario los que van a resolver el problema de la crisis habitacional. No es un trabajo de caudillos o personalidades, es Fuenteovejuna.

Considerando que cada uno de ustedes -integrantes de una dupla creativa -  posee un bagaje formativo propio y maneja una serie de herramientas relativamente diferenciadas, ¿como asumieron la concepción y producción conjunta de esta propuesta?

AB/JJO: Lo primero es que logramos ponernos de acuerdo en lo esencial, en el enfoque y la apertura, en las discusiones. Luego, el tema de la producción fue más complicado, porque sin duda manejamos soportes distintos y de alguna manera la primera muestra se veía formalmente diferenciada. Pero esto también tiene sentido, porque dentro de la torre es así: por un lado está la estructura en cuadrícula del edificio original que se va quebrando para dejar ver la nueva tipología. Es como ver la polémica Otero vs. Otero Silva emerger1, sin dar a una de las dos posturas, abstracta y figurativa, como ganadora -brutal tendencia nacional, sobre todo desde las colecciones-, sino verlas convivir. La heterotopía como narrativa. 

Después logramos superar la comodidad que nos daban nuestros soportes habituales y empezamos a desarrollar “afinidades electivas” y propusimos instalaciones e ideas cruzadas en las que nos ha tocado trabajar a cuatro manos, dos aquí y dos allá. Hacer una coreografía y escenografía también al ritmo de la torre: el de “resolver”.

El paso del trabajo de campo (visitas, conversaciones, recolección de datos, etc.) a la puesta en escena  está mediado por un proceso de edición que suprime ciertos elementos y recrea otros en función de su efectividad estética. ¿Cuáles fueron los criterios seguidos en este caso para la articulación de la versión expositiva de este proyecto? ¿Supone esto que hay un adentro y un afuera  irreductibles que obliga a considerar el mundo social y el campo del arte como irremediablemente paralelos?

AB/JJO: Siempre que lo expusimos cambió de forma, lo que creemos es importante. En Caracas expusimos en Menos tiempo que lugar un dibujo a lápiz directo en la pared, a la manera de una valla efímera, como el trabajo de rotulación de Ulpiano en los museos que ya no son. Nos interesaba subrayar la idea de lo pasajero, que tan bien expresó Cabrujas en sus textos sobre Caracas. “Nadie vino a quedarse demasiado” y parece que es verdad. O como las impresionantes obras improvisadas de Gabriela Montero. No es casual que haya coincidencias. Sus piezas quedan grabadas como obras únicas y espontáneas, irrepetibles, y nuestra pieza quedó fotografiada y se fue, pasó. Como la memoria venezolana, donde todo desaparece en un lapso de tiempo. Por eso a veces nos sentimos terriblemente viejos. Tenemos una  tradición que no dura treinta años. Por eso a veces nos sentimos eternamente jóvenes. Lo eternamente pasajero. Además, en particular en el caso de Caracas, todo el mundo quería ver la torre, miles de fotos, lo dramático, lo morboso. Y la torre está en Caracas, la tenemos enfrente. Eso es raro.

Luego, entras en la torre y es ahí donde no ves la torre sino fragmentos. La torre desaparece y aparece un barrio, diferente, vertical, con pasillos de concreto en vez de veredas, con una entrada y una salida, pero un barrio. Para conocer la torre hay que ir a un barrio. Un barrio y una cárcel, dos conceptos y normativas que se unen en ese espacio. La torre entonces es varias cosas a la vez: un edificio, un barrio, una cárcel, una iglesia, un hotel. Hay dogmas y normas, no constitución. Hay fe.

Siempre cambia, dependiendo de qué represente en ese momento. La fe, las normas, la prisión. En respuesta: no tenemos un criterio único, surgen dudas y caminos y así lo expresamos. En Nueva York fueron dibujos y montajes fotográficos de su morfología. En Madrid dividimos el adentro y el afuera, y el afuera pasó a ser souvenir porque al entrar cambió toda perspectiva simbólica y reflexiva. En Río de Janeiro mostramos una didáctica desplegada y austera de su concepción y devenir, junto a un texto cronológico. En Dubai fue una gran imagen impresa que incluía un texto, fotos e imágenes de archivo del proyecto original de la torre. Ahora que vamos a México, instalaremos una valla publicitaria que es ruina, junto a la vitalidad iluminada de los tendederos. La torre se rebasa y se diluye dentro de lo que es una investigación más amplia y compleja.

Afuera y adentro ese rascacielos es nuestro país, decadente y carnavalesco, triste y festivo, detenido y vital. Una contradicción brutal. Donde nada está desvinculado, al contrario, está articulado pero con una fractura en la tibia y el peroné. Las patologías también tienen formas orgánicas y organizadas, estructuras.

Así es nuestro método, un poco científico. Vamos exponiendo lo que consideramos son los síntomas de nuestra patología. Y sí, considerando que nuestro material es, simplemente, “la vida común, que es la vida verdadera”, como aspiraba Virginia Woolf.

En nuestra vida diaria y común, más allá de lo que debe y puede dar el Estado, éste ha estimulado la fantasía y el dogma de fe. El gobierno nos vende la imagen de ser profundamente incluyente y nos paga con exclusión. En su discurso de Padre Todopoderoso, creador y reparador, no involucra a la población, por lo tanto, nos deja a todos en el rincón de la fe y la paciencia. Nos convierte en beneficiarios o víctimas cuando, lo único que deben dar la religión y la fe en nuestros días, citando al erudito jesuita Michel de Certeau, es “justicia”. En cambio, somos sometidos a la más brutal e injusta incertidumbre, la de la esperanza y la espera.


1 “Con motivo del desacuerdo con los criterios manejados en la entrega de premios del XVIII Salón Oficial Anual de Arte Venezolano, en 1957, el artista Alejandro Otero sostuvo una polémica en las páginas de El Nacional con el escritor y editor Miguel Otero Silva, defendiendo el abstraccionismo. Hasta ese momento Alejandro Otero había publicado artículos combativos que habían despertado polémicas, como la que sostuvo con Mario Briceño Iragorry en 1952, pero en esta ocasión, Otero Rodríguez  rebatió que a los abstraccionistas se les reprochaba una tendencia cuyo ´signo es la evasión´ y el ´frío invernadero de una fórmula repetida´”. Cfr. Diccionario Biográfico de las Artes Visuales en Venezuela (Tomo II). Fundación Galería de Arte Nacional, Caracas, 2005, p. 944.

Ten Examples of Architecture as a Collective Action

Image: RUFWORK - © all rights reserved
Thanks to contemporary media, architectural news and knowledge is more accessible than ever: every day, design and architectural journals both online and off deliver fresh news about iconic buildings, luxury museums, beautiful villas, eco-friendly houses, and much more. But these stories often reflect the designers’ personal perspectives and concentrate on a limited portion of the world.
Even though the Internet globally connects us, much of the world still escapes our view. High-profile building activities receive media attention while examples of community-based work, vernacular and traditional building techniques, informal settlements, and disaster reconstruction receive little attention, even though they’re part of our everyday reality and are often the result of collaborative innovation. As a result of this poor documentation, indigenous building knowledge is fragmented, forgotten and even lost in our ever-shifting digital world.
Is there a way to collect this scattered local architectural knowledge and make it accessible and valuable to everyone? And with this available knowledge, what can we learn from each other about collaboration and sustainable development? These questions inspired the creation of Architecture In Development, a non-profit organization that aims to reconnect sustainable development to architecture.
About Architecture In Development
To achieve this mission, we built a community-based, user-generated platform to unite local and global building knowledge in one place, and connect community initiatives to experts from around the world.
Stories of architectural projects are told with respect to the local society, culture, tradition and environments. These stories describe architecture as a collective act by explaining how a slum village was formed by the social structure of urban immigrants, or how building activities were initiated and performed together by both designers and users. This collective knowledge has the potential to emonstrate new ways to communicate architectural knowledge, and become a foundation on which practitioners of architecture can collaborate on local and global sustainable development.
Some standout projects from our database:

image: RUFWORK | © all rights reserved
A sustainable village development that merges education and agricultural production, gradually guiding the populace towards economic self-sufficiency.

image: Pascual Gangotena | © all rights reserved
In a remote village in Ecuador, the Nueva Esperanza School is the first built with the needs of the community in mind, better facilitating education efforts and preserving the unique identity of the village by utilizing local materials and human resources.

image: Angela Bonadies | © all rights reserved
In this abandoned skyscraper, thousands of people have found shelter and developed their own self-sustainable micro-economy.

image: Sytse de Maat | © all rights reserved
A research project that demonstrates how spontaneous development, usually thought of as being endemic to impoverished areas, can serves as a rich source of insights on human-building interaction.

image: Ahkamul Hakim/ Aga Khan Award Trust for Culture | © all rights reserved
The Nqibikan Village Reconstruction empowered residents to rebuild their own physical shelters and re-establish a community of resilience post-earthquake.

Below are five other projects from our database still awaiting authors:

image: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung | CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license
A fishing village built up on stilts above Lagos Lagoon, an area typically associated with slums.

image: AfH | CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license
A post-disaster reconstruction made possible by the collaboration of Architecture For Humanity, The Stiller Foundation and Students Rebuild.

image: Chiara Gugliotta e Matteo Caravatti | © all rights reserved
The Warehouse for Agricultural Products is a community development that uses a participatory process to sustain the village’s agricultural activities.

image: Design with the other 90% | © all rights reserved
A new social meeting place that also turns trash into fuel, improving villagers’ quality of life and health while creating jobs for younger residents.

image: Lukaaz | CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license
A vertical squatters’ city expropriated and evacuated in 2004, where thousands of people found shelter for decades .
Want to contribute? Every project entry can have up to five authors (one primary author and four co-authors,) so you’re welcome to contribute a piece of knowledge to the page without having to edit the whole page. This makes for a more collaborative approach to sharing architectural knowledge. Register for an account and add or contribute to a project at

DomusWeb Best of Architecture 2011

DomusWeb Best of Architecture 2011

An architecture report from 2011

As the year comes to a close, Domus recaps the top stories that captured the imaginations of readers and pointed toward possible futures of architectural practice

Teshima art museum 
Nishizawa designed the Ryue Teshima Art Museum in Japan's Inland Sea, in association with the artist Rei Naito, cognisant of her methodologies and of her interests in natural phenomena. Nishizawa has laid out a mysterious white structure on the ground that is reminiscent of the shape of a water droplet. The concrete enclosure is lit by two openings and seems to inflate and deflate like a living organism. It is a shell that flows out into nature with a free span of 60 metres. The Teshima Art Museum catches its visitors off guard. It calls itself a museum, but its exhibition space is very far from the traditional view of architecture for museums, with their masses of jumbled objects and works of art. In fact, on Teshima Island visitors are left alone to contemplate an experience with nature made of light, water and air.

The tower of David 
Twenty years ago, Venezuelan financier David Brillembourg dreamed of a shimmering, glass-clad financial centre in downtown Caracas to symbolise the nation's economic prowess. The destiny of Torre Confinanzas was another—to become home to an informal community of 2,500 homeless people who are gradually colonising, and completing, the unfinished 45-storey building. Two Venezuelan artists, Ángela Bonadies and Juan José Olavarría, document the story of a contemporary heterotopia. Their research is outlined in this interview conducted by Jesús Fuenmayor, director of the Caracas Periférico art centre, who asks them about the resulting work, La Torre por dentro y por fuera.

Ryue Nishizawa, Teshima Art Museum
Testo alternativo ImmagineRyue Nishizawa, Teshima Art Museum
Ring around a tree
The most recent project by Yui and Takaharu Tezuka is disarmingly simple: a ring around a tree. This structure becomes an entry that connects the south entrance to the Fuji Kindergarten with the elliptical central space inside the school itself, a playground onto which all classrooms face. "Ring Around a Tree" offers an architecture where there are no measures taken to constrain space, in order to liberate the body. The compressed spaces, which can only be reached by crawling, further the freedom of movement and ability to use the body as a means of learning. The project consists of a wood and transparent glass volume spiraling upward, enveloping a Japanese Zelkova tree. Built between the existing main building and the street, the new construction creates spaces for play, foreign language instruction, and provides an area for the children to wait for the school bus.
The Confinanzas Tower (The tower of David)
Testo alternativo ImmagineThe Confinanzas Tower
(The tower of David)
The Giant Interactive Group Campus
The Giant Interactive Group headquarters is a big, complicated Morphosis building plopped down in the middle of a big, empty field. It is long and lean and low-rise, equal parts opaque and transparent, with an undulating green roof that provides welcome topographical variety to its flat, former swampland site. The headquarters is located in Songjiang, an ancient town now incorporated into greater Shanghai. Giant Group's campus is to be the centrepiece of Songjiang's new "civilized industrial area," but at the moment it stands largely alone.
Yui and Takaharu Tezuka, Ring around a tree
Testo alternativo ImmagineYui and Takaharu Tezuka, Ring around a tree
Waffle Urbanism
Mayer's parasols generate an artificial landscape that sets out to retrieve the emblematic value of architecture, placing it in a context in which the symbolic is an inherent part of social and cultural history. Mayer refers to Metropol Paraasol as a "cathedral without walls", an architectural promenade above the rooftops of Seville. In order not to spoil a Roman archaeological site, the waffle frame of the new complex, built in reinforced, concrete, wood laminate and steel, touches the ground at only six points. The "mushroom-shaped" structure is set on a base that accomodates a new market, an archaeological museum, bars and restaurants. The project is designed to create areas of shade that are vital to the use of public spaces in a sun-baked city like Seville.

Testo alternativo Immagine Testo alternativo Immagine Testo alternativo Immagine Testo alternativo Immagine Testo alternativo Immagine
Morphosis, the Giant Interactive Group's campus
Testo alternativo ImmagineMorphosis, the Giant Interactive Group's campus
Jürgen Mayer H., Metropol Parasol
Testo alternativo ImmagineJürgen Mayer H., Metropol Parasol


Domus #946

The Tower of David

The Tower of David

An architecture report from Caracas by Jesús Fuenmayor

In the early '90s Caracas dreamed of a shimmering downtown financial centre—now it's the tallest squat in the world

Twenty years ago, Venezuelan financier David Brillembourg dreamed of a shimmering, glass-clad financial centre in downtown Caracas to symbolise the nation's economic prowess. The destiny of Torre Confinanzas was another—to become home to an informal community of 2,500 homeless people who are gradually colonising, and completing, the unfinished 45-storey building. Two Venezuelan artists, Ángela Bonadies and Juan José Olavarría, document the story of a contemporary heterotopia. Their research is outlined in this interview conducted by Jesús Fuenmayor, director of the Caracas Periférico art centre, who asks them about the resulting work, La Torre por dentro y por fuera

Jesús Fuenmayor: Did you approach this project as a way to criticise modernity via the language of art? How important was the crisis of modernity in determining your choice of subject and the project's development?

Ángela Bonadies/Juan José Olavarría: There's definitely an implicit critique of modernity at work in the project, as it's at the heart of a promise that wasn't kept, a truncated project. As such, the crisis of modernity is the basis of a new state of affairs. However, it is also important to point out that many artists and curators criticise the dominant and currently obsessive strain of thought regarding modernity itself. It's as if modernity were the place where "all was lost", where a continual focus is placed on art and architecture, which subsequently makes it an insular look at modernity that omits, in Venezuela's case, the surrounding historic and sociopolitical framework. In a sense, the modernity that is re-read and re-interpreted was not elaborated nor did it lay deep enough foundations to become a "culture" as such. Instead, it remained a set of isolated cases and exceptions.

Choosing the tower as our object of study led us towards different eras and other pre- and postmodern situations—and that's what interested us. The building is not considered heritage because it doesn't fit into the modern parameters of beauty. This modern building was the product of a banking boom that occurred in the late 1980s, as part of a project to transform this area of Caracas into a financial district. The tower was going to be one of the buildings lining a boulevard of banks. In a sense, it is the result of a philosophy of modernity based on the stock exchange, closer to the ideology of Wall Street's towering silhouette than perfect humanist Corbusian forms.

Señora María and family
in her apartment on the 6th
floor, where she lives and sells
chucherías (home-made sweets).
Testo alternativo ImmagineSeñora María and family in her apartment on the 6th floor, where she lives and sells chucherías (home-made sweets).
The tower is filled with economic and political history that predates its appropriation by squatters: the image of the emergence of powerful groups who were not part of the amos del valle (or rather "lords of the valley" with old money). It reflects new fortunes, a bonanza that was vulnerable to risks, surplus value, speculation, the lack of controls, and a rupture of the hegemony wielded by the few local families who had dwelled in an archipelago of modernity. The crisis of modernity is the crisis of utopia. The tower is a heterotopia, which makes it an "ambiguous space".

When you choose a topic to research from a certain type of artistic practice such as yours, which is constantly calling its own point of view into question, and when you choose a topic as unique as David's Tower, is there not a risk that you lose some critical edge? What I mean is, the topic is so "spectacular", so unique, that it could go beyond any personal vision and thus annul the idea that we are first and foremost dealing an artwork, an artistic investigation. Does it not instead suggest that we are in the presence of a freak phenomenon rather than an artwork?

On the contrary. Firstly, we approached the object from an ethical distance and we didn't regard it as a "freak" phenomenon to be exploited. If we didn't achieve that, then the work is at a loss from the very outset. The tower is not "a topic", nor a theme park, but a space-object where situations converge that enable us to observe, research and develop a project from different disciplines we are interested in. We want to deal with a general problem that has specific historical, economic, political, and demographic implications. The tower is an object, among many others, that represents the lack of synchrony between deeds and words; it is a symptomatic space, not a spectacle. The people who live there are not acting out a play or performing, they are finding a solution to an issue affecting their lives.

What's more, the tower is not unique or isolated, but is part of a permanent absence and presence: the absence of decisions to confront a problem and the presence of a group of people trying to survive. In this case, there's a contrast because instead of being on a piece of wasteland, on the peripheries, or up on a hill, this situation is occurring in an abandoned building, an aspirational skyscraper, that is really a container that molds itself and assimilates what's outside it for a common cause: survival. And this in turn represents another void: that of financial controls and another struggle between political and economic power. Ultimately, all we are doing is focusing on the imprint that power leaves in its wake: a void in solving problems and the massive amount of bureaucracy concentrated in the offices where decisions are made. That is the real theme park. The tower is a reality that is as human as geometry.

There are other cities, like Johannesburg, that have similar cases.
The “Tower of David” is currently home to
2,500 people. Over time it has become a city
within a city: 800 homes, shops, beauty salons,
Internet cafes, a football pitch, a basketball court
and an evangelical church. Those who live in the
building must comply with a set of written rules
established by the community.
Testo alternativo ImmagineThe “Tower of David” is currently home to 2,500 people. Over time it has become a city within a city: 800 homes, shops, beauty salons, Internet cafes, a football pitch, a basketball court and an evangelical church. Those who live in the building must comply with a set of written rules established by the community.
There are two elements that play a very special role in the way the problem (the object of study) is dealt with: firstly, you decided to "attack it" together and, secondly, you have presented this work in parts. On what basis did you make these decisions? Were there any preliminary decisions preceding them? Is it part of a carefully calculated plan, or is it the tower itself that imposes this approach? Why?

The tower imposes its own rhythm. We can try to work out what route to take to approach it and try to "know everything" about it. But then, when you get closer, the decisions are not yours to make because you have to depend on the people who are not involved in production deadlines, so you have to be there, watch and wait. That's fine. You have to respect the way time works. Preconceived ideas adapt and change. The work is flexible and it consolidates as you do it. Sometimes it's good that there are two of us because whilst one of us works, the other rests, and when we are both there, one complements the other.

You must have a very ambiguous relationship with this "object of study". How many skyscrapers on the planet have been transformed into squats? Probably none, but this building is not at the centre of media attention either here or abroad (imagine for a minute that squatters took over the Statue of Liberty—it would probably make us forget all about the twin towers). In the face of the ambiguity surrounding how the public would assimilate an event of these dimensions, what do you think is happening: a) that this is the greatest example of the scam of modernist progress, b) that it leaves us so perplexed that we can't even react, or c) that this is the best way to shake off modernist complexes?

There are several cases like this in the world. Everywhere there are economic problems linked to housing crises, new ways of inhabiting buildings are created. As we mentioned before, there are similar cases in South Africa. There is also a lot of work regarding politics, housing and the economy carried out by socially committed artists such as Martha Rosler, in the United States.

But if we have to choose from your three options, we'd pick the last one: to shake off modernist complexes. The art of the present, as Serge Daney rightly points out, cannot be full of regrets. We need to look back and see what elements in the past mapped out our current situation, but not to take a blinkered look at a particular period, with tear-filled eyes, "in search of lost time".
"The tower is not 'a topic', nor a theme park, but a space-object where situations converge that enable us to observe, research and develop a project from different disciplines we are interested in."
Section of Torre Confinanzas.
Testo alternativo ImmagineSection of Torre Confinanzas.
In Israel, architects work according to military strategies to design whole housing estates. In Venezuela, architects have to cede their ideas to the most precarious needs. How can a profession be so successful in one place (determining even the height of windows on the basis of bombs) and be so unsuccessful in another (making a skyscraper that ends up as a place where bags of excrements are thrown from the fiftieth floor)? What determining cultural factors make contrasts like this possible? What is the point of continuing in a profession that is dedicated to such nonsense? What criticism of architecture as a design problem did you have to take on board in order to understand this phenomenon from a cultural viewpoint?

This is not an architectural or design-related problem. The architect of the tower planned to make a skyscraper to house a company, a hotel and a mall. Nobody planned for this building to be taken over by squatters. Basically, as the State did not respond to the housing deficit, people transform every space they find "idle" into a place to live. When people take over a building, they don't see a construction loaded with cultural or formal implications, but a piece of wasteland with a roof and stairs, and ample space to set up home in. The building was left half-built because of a political and economic problem. Architecture here is nothing more than a vehicle to talk about things. The content moves around this vehicle, which might just as well have been a bridge, a hill, a plot of land or a warehouse.

It's true that architecture and urban planning are matters for the State, in terms of what you mentioned about Israel. It's also true that totalitarian regimes benefit from a particular type of architecture, which ends up being part of its discourse of power, as in the emblematic case of Albert Speer or many monumental constructions in communist countries. Liberal governments are driven by something different; they work to maintain public works, to foster spaces of consumption and pleasure, and grant architects creative freedom. In a sense, every State "constructs" its image through different decisions: what it demolishes, what it builds, what it forgets, what it does and doesn't do. It would be interesting to do an analysis of our government in terms of its urban strategies, or lack of them.
Left: An elevator shaft perforates
the floor slabs of the parking lot.
Looking downwards, one can
see the kindergarten in barrio
Sarría; upwards, a view of the
tower’s evangelical wing. Right: The stairs leading to the
tower’s parking lot. Despite the
absence of handrails, they are
regularly used by the building’s
Testo alternativo ImmagineLeft: An elevator shaft perforates the floor slabs of the parking lot. Looking downwards, one can see the kindergarten in barrio Sarría; upwards, a view of the tower’s evangelical wing. Right: The stairs leading to the tower’s parking lot. Despite the absence of handrails, they are regularly used by the building’s inhabitants.
Obviously the above comment is made by somebody who hasn't spent time, like you have, with the people who took over the skyscraper. So, how important are the experiences you have with these people? How has the research you're both doing determined what the squatters think of the building?

This project underwent a rupture. At the start we approached what for us was an idea of the tower, what it represented for the city, in Venezuelan art, as a form, grid, icon, metaphor. We made a series of works that reproduced what it looks like on the outside in terms of form and also in terms of its symbolism, the grid as a structure and history. It was important to adopt that distance from it. Then, when we entered the tower there was a shift. We might say that the language used on the inside is much more complex than we first thought and not because it is spectacular, but because it is organic. Everyone wants to live in the best possible conditions. When you are inside, you're not in the tower, you are in shared corridors, on the stairs or in a person or a family's home. The tower disappears when you are on the inside and it becomes a compendium of atomized languages that live together within the overall layout.
Roinner Hernández (aka
Ronny), 20, works in a
prestigious hair salon in the
southeast of Caracas but also
receives clients in his apartment
on the 4th floor of the tower.
As a mirror, he uses a sheet of
glass taken from the facade of
the tower.
Testo alternativo ImmagineRoinner Hernández (aka Ronny), 20, works in a prestigious hair salon in the southeast of Caracas but also receives clients in his apartment on the 4th floor of the tower. As a mirror, he uses a sheet of glass taken from the facade of the tower.
In earlier works, you have both addressed the problem of representation by adopting very different approaches. Ángela approaches the problem as somebody who criticizes it through the way it is classified. Juan José seeks to create an iconography of forgetfulness. What was it about David's Tower that led you to work together?

We started to work together in a different way, placing each of our works about the representation of memory and possible memories into dialogue. After this preliminary exercise, we decided to deal with making joint works and we focused on the tower, which allowed us to approach it from different places and disciplines. And it has worked. There is no overarching reason for this, except the possibility it offers us to bring together different references and trains of thought.
Testo alternativo Immagine Testo alternativo Immagine Testo alternativo Immagine Testo alternativo Immagine Testo alternativo Immagine
Southeast view of Caracas
from the 26th floor. In the
distance, one can make out the
minaret of the Quebrada Honda
Testo alternativo ImmagineSoutheast view of Caracas from the 26th floor. In the distance, one can make out the minaret of the Quebrada Honda mosque.
Bulletin board with rules
and regulations for the 23rd
floor, including information on
payments and a list of people
responsible for maintenance.
Testo alternativo ImmagineBulletin board with rules and regulations for the 23rd floor, including information on payments and a list of people responsible for maintenance.


Publicado en la Revista DOMUS # 946

La Torre de David
Un informe de arquitectura desde Caracas por Jesús Fuenmayor

En los años 90 Caracas soñó con un centro financiero resplandeciente , ahora es el edificio invadido más alto del mundo.

Hace veinte años, el empresario venezolano David Brillembourg soñó con un centro financiero brillante, de vidrio revestido en el centro de Caracas, como símbolo de valor económico de la nación. El destino de la Torre Confinanzas fue otro-para convertirse en el hogar de una comunidad informal de 2.500 personas sin hogar que están colonizando poco a poco, y completando, el edificio de 45 pisos sin terminar. Dos artistas venezolanos, Ángela Bonadies y Juan José Olavarría, documentan la historia de una heterotopía contemporánea. Su investigación se resume en esta entrevista realizada por Jesús Fuenmayor, director del Centro de Arte Periférico Caracas, que les pregunta sobre el trabajo resultante, La Torre Por Dentro y Por Fuera.

Torre David: Entrevista a Ángela Bonadies y Juan José Olavarría por Jesús Fuenmayor

Jesús Fuenmayor: ¿Hay algún interés resaltante o enfático en aproximarse a este objeto de estudio como una forma de crítica a la modernidad desde el lenguaje del arte? ¿Qué tanta importancia tiene la crisis de la modernidad en la escogencia del objeto y el desarrollo del trabajo?

Ángela Bonadies/Juan José Olavarría: Una crítica a la modernidad está implícita en el trabajo, sin duda, pues es el centro de una promesa incumplida y un proyecto truncado; su crisis funda un nuevo estado de cosas. Pero también es importante resaltar que hay una crítica a un pensamiento dominante y casi obsesivo actual, de parte de buena cantidad de artistas y curadores, por la modernidad, como si fuera el lugar donde “todo se perdió”, enfocándose siempre en el arte y la arquitectura, por lo que se convierte en una mirada insular a la modernidad, descuidando, en el caso particular de Venezuela, el marco histórico y sociopolítico. De alguna manera esa modernidad que se relee y reinterpreta no se extendió ni sentó las bases profundas para convertirse en “cultura” y se quedó en casos aislados, en excepciones.

La elección de este objeto de trabajo, “la torre”, nos conduce a otras épocas y otras situaciones, pre y posmodernas, eso nos interesa. Este edificio no se considera patrimonio, pues no encaja en los parámetros modernos de belleza. Digamos que es un edificio modernizador, producto del boom bancario de finales de los años 80. Formaba parte de un proyecto de urbanización financiera para esa zona de Caracas. Iba a ser una de las torres de un boulevard bancario. Es, de alguna manera, producto del pensamiento de una modernidad bursátil, más cerca de la ideología de la empinada silueta de Wall Street que de las áureas unidades humanistas le corbusianas. 
Hay mucho encerrado en esa torre antes de ser invadida, una historia económica y política: la imagen de la “emergencia” de grupos de poder fuera de los “amos del valle”, las nuevas fortunas, la bonanza abierta al riesgo y al juego con el superávit, la especulación, la ausencia de controles y la ruptura formal con el culto archipiélago moderno local.La crisis de la modernidad es la crisis de la utopía. La torre es una heterotopía, lo que vendría a representar un “espacio ambiguo”.

Cuando se escoge un tema para ser investigado desde un cierto tipo de práctica artística como la de ustedes, que está constantemente poniendo en duda su propio punto de vista, y se escoge un tema tan único como el de la Torre David, ¿no se corre el riesgo de perder algo del filo crítico? Me refiero a que el tema es tan "espectacular", tan único, que podría rebasar cualquier visión personal y anular la idea de que uno se enfrenta ante todo a una obra, a una investigación artística, y que uno está más bien en presencia de un fenómeno más que de una obra.

Al contrario. Primero, nos acercamos al objeto con una distancia ética y no lo vemos como un fenómeno “freak” a ser explotado. Si eso no se logra, el trabajo está perdido desde el comienzo. La torre no es “un tema” ni un parque temático, sino un espacio-objeto que concentra situaciones que nos permiten observar, investigar y desarrollar un trabajo desde diferentes disciplinas en las cuales estamos interesados; queremos acercarnos a un problema general, que tiene implicaciones históricas, económicas, políticas, demográficas particulares. La torre es un objeto, entre muchos, que representa la falta de sincronía entre los discursos y los hechos, es un espacio sintomático, no es un espectáculo. Las personas que viven ahí no son actores de una obra o un performance, están resolviendo un tema vital.

Además, la torre no es un hecho único ni aislado, forma parte de una ausencia y una presencia permanentes. La ausencia de decisiones para enfrentar un problema, la presencia de un colectivo que busca sobrevivir. En este caso, crea un contraste porque en vez de situarse en un terreno baldío o periférico o en un cerro se sitúa en un edificio abandonado, en un rascacielos aspiracional, pero en realidad, es un contenedor que se amolda y asimila para una causa común, la supervivencia, y que representa a su vez otro vacío, el de la fiscalización financiera y otra pelea, entre el poder político y el económico. Al final, todo lo que hacemos es fijar la mira en la huella que deja el poder en su andanza: un vacío en la resolución de problemas y una concentración brutal en las oficinas donde se toman las decisiones. Eso sí es un parque temático. La torre es una realidad tan humana como la geometría.

Hay otras ciudades con casos similares, como Johannesburgo.

Hay dos elementos que participan de manera muy especial en el enfoque del problema (del objeto de estudio): primero, que decidieron "atacarlo" a cuatro manos y segundo que han estado presentando esta aproximación por partes. ¿En qué se basan estas decisiones? ¿Hay algunas decisiones preliminares que las anteceden? ¿Es parte de un plan cuidadosamente calculado o es el objeto de estudio el que impone esta aproximación? ¿Por qué?

El objeto de estudio es el que impone un ritmo. Podemos hacernos una idea de por dónde vamos a abordarlo y tratar de “saber todo” de ese objeto. Pero luego, cuando te aproximas, las decisiones no son sólo tuyas, tienes que contar con otras personas que no participan de tiempos de producción y hay que estar, ver y esperar. Eso está bien. Hay que respetar los tiempos. Las ideas preconcebidas se adaptan y cambian. El trabajo es flexible. Y se va construyendo. A veces es bueno que haya cuatro manos, mientras unas trabajan otras descansan y cuando todas están en el trabajo se complementan.

La relación con este "objeto de estudio" debe ser muy ambigua. ¿cuántos rascacielos en el planeta tierra han sido convertidos en un espacio de ocupación ilegal? Probablemente ninguno y sin embargo este edificio no está en el centro de la atención mediática ni acá ni en otras partes (imagino por un segundo que unos okupas invaden la estatua de La Libertad y seguramente nos harían olvidar la caída de las torres gemelas). Ante la ambigüedad de la recepción pública de un evento de estas dimensiones, ustedes qué se plantean: a) estamos ante al mayor ejemplo de la estafa del progreso modernista b) estamos ante un ejemplo que nos deja tan perplejos que no podemos reaccionar c) Esta es la mejor manera de dejar atrás los complejos modernistas.

Hay varios casos en el mundo. En todo lugar donde haya problemas económicos ligados a crisis de vivienda se crean nuevas formas de ocupación. Hay casos similares en Sudáfrica, como dijimos antes. También hay todo un trabajo desarrollado en torno a política, vivienda y economía por parte de artistas comprometidos como Martha Rosler, en Estados Unidos.Ahora, si hay que elegir entre tus tres opciones, nos quedamos con la última: dejar atrás los complejos modernistas. El arte del presente, como bien afirmó Serge Daney, no puede estar lleno de remordimientos. Es indispensable voltear y ver qué
del pasado proyectó nuestra actual perspectiva, pero no escrutar con gríngolas un determinado período, con los ojos llenos de lágrimas, “en busca del tiempo perdido”.

En Israel los arquitectos se ponen al servicio de las estrategias militares para diseñar urbanizaciones enteras. En Venezuela los arquitectos tienen que ceder sus ideas a las necesidades más precarias. ¿Por qué se puede tener tanto éxito ejerciendo una profesión (determinando hasta las alturas de las ventanas en función de las bombas) en un lugar y tener tan poco éxito en otras partes (hacer un rascacielos que termina siendo un lugar donde se lanzarán bolsas con heces desde el piso 50)? ¿Qué determinantes culturales hacen posibles estos contrastes? ¿Cuál es el sentido de mantener una profesión dedicada a estos dislates? En fin, cuál es la crítica de la arquitectura como problema de diseño que ustedes tienen que asumir para entender este fenómeno desde un punto de vista cultural.

Aquí no hay problema arquitectónico ni de diseño. El arquitecto de la torre planeó hacer un rascacielos para que operara una empresa, un hotel, un centro comercial. Nadie planeó que se convirtiera en un edificio ocupado o invadido. Simplemente, al no haber respuesta del Estado para el vacío habitacional, la gente transforma todo lo que encuentra “ocioso”. Cuando la gente entra a invadir no ve un edificio con una carga cultural o formal, sino un espacio baldío con techo y escaleras, con espacios amplios para instalarse. El edificio fue dejado a medio construir por un problema político y económico. La arquitectura aquí es simplemente un vehículo para hablar de otras cosas. El contenido se mueve alrededor de ese vehículo, que bien podría ser un puente, un cerro, un terreno o un galpón.

Es cierto que la arquitectura y el urbanismo son temas de Estado, en relación a lo que mencionas de Israel. También es cierto que los regímenes totalitarios benefician un tipo de arquitectura, que termina siendo una parte de su discurso de poder, como el caso emblemático de Albert Speer o una gran cantidad de construcciones monumentales de los países comunistas. Los gobiernos liberales se mueven por un impulso distinto, dedicados al mantenimiento de las obras públicas, a propiciar espacios de consumo y placer, a la creatividad formal como una libertad otorgada. De alguna manera cada Estado “construye” su imagen a través de diferentes decisiones: lo que derriba, lo que levanta, lo que olvida, lo que hace y lo que no hace. Sería interesante hacer un análisis del discurso de nuestro gobierno a través de sus estrategias urbanas o la ausencia de ellas.

El comentario anterior, obviamente, es de alguien que no ha coexistido como ustedes con las personas que invadieron el rascacielos. Así que, ¿qué importancia tiene esa convivencia con los invasores para ustedes? ¿Cómo ha determinado la investigación que ambos están desarrollando la visión que tienen de este edificio sus invasores?

Este trabajo sufrió una importante ruptura. Al principio nos aproximamos a lo que era para nosotros la idea de la torre, lo que representaba: para la ciudad, dentro del arte venezolano, como forma, retícula, ícono, metáfora. Hicimos una serie de trabajos que reproducían su aspecto formal exterior y su carga simbólica, la retícula como estructura e historia. Fue importante tomar esa distancia. Luego, cuando entramos en la torre, hubo un giro. Podríamos decir que el lenguaje que se maneja dentro es mucho más complejo que nuestra preconcepción. Y no por espectacularidad, al contrario, sino por su organicidad. Todo el mundo quiere
vivir lo mejor posible. Cuando estás dentro no estás en la torre, estás en pasillos comunes, en escaleras o en la casa de una persona, de una familia. La torre desaparece cuando estás dentro y se transforma en un compendio de lenguajes atomizados que conviven bajo el trazado estructural.

Ambos han desarrollado un trabajo alrededor del problema de la representación con enfoques muy diferentes. Ángela se aproxima a ese problema como alguien que lo crítica por la vía de sus formas de clasificación. Juan José quiere hacer una iconografía de la desmemoria. ¿Qué es lo que la Torre de David hizo para hacerlos confluir en un trabajo en conjunto?

Comenzamos a trabajar juntos de otra manera, poniendo en diálogo trabajos de cada uno, sobre la representación de la memoria o las posibles memorias. Después de ese ejercicio preliminar decidimos abordar un trabajo en dupla y nos enfocamos en la torre, que nos daba la posibilidad de acercarnos desde diferentes lugares y disciplinas. Y ha funcionado. No hay una razón dominante más que la posibilidad de hacer converger distintas referencias y líneas de pensamiento.


Arquitectura e Arte Contemporâneas 

# 94 - 95 


por: Luís Santiago Baptista e Paula Melâneo

Ángela Bonadies + 

Juan José Olavarría

Contrastes Sul-americanos | Perspectivas Críticas

Arquitecta e fotógrafa (A. Bonadies), Artista Plástico (J. J. Olavarría), Autores "Torre de David"
arqa: Tendo em conta o vosso projecto de documentação da ocupação da Torre de David em Caracas, e no âmbito do fenómeno de urbanização global, qual a especificidade do contexto territorial, urbano e arquitectónico da América Latina?

Ángela Bonadies + Juan José Olavarría: Cada cidade e país têm a sua especificidade, cremos que não existe um contexto genérico latino-americano ou europeu ou asiático, mas que a paisagem urbana responde às alterações económicas, políticas e sociais específicas. O que acontece num país como a Venezuela? Onde as bases e estruturas são débeis, onde não se planeou nem o presente nem o futuro, de modo a que cidade seja estável e cresça de maneira orgânica mas, pelo contrário, a cidade se foi construindo aos pedaços, por partes, improvisada, o que dá destaque tanto à pobreza como à abundância, tanto às carências como às aspirações. Digamos que vivemos num país sem segredos, no sentido em que está tudo à vista, mas cheio de contradições, como a publicidade em que se fala dos grandes melhoramentos e da obra feita no país, assente sobre ruínas. Vivemos num país em que a retórica do discurso político desafia os argumentos pouco sedutores da realidade. No nosso contexto, em particular, a arquitectura tem-se comportado como um espectáculo de fogo-de-artifício. Houve intenções de urbanizar, particularmente em Caracas, mas não houve um plano sustentado. Têm-se feito construções ambiciosas, emblemáticas, modernas, marcos arquitectónicos a nível mundial, no entanto, a cidade como tal, não se desenvolve, porque nunca se resolveram problemas pré-modernos como a relação campo/cidade. As nossas cidades são agressivas para os peões e para os condutores, cheias de automóveis e com péssimas estradas. O sistema de autocarros não se tem actualizado, continua o mesmo que foi adquirido nos anos 70 e não tem horários, a sua frequência é arbitrária. Porque o combustível é tão barato, qualquer "carcaça" com rodas, pode abastecer e circular. Encher o tanque de um automóvel custa menos de um dólar. O metro de Caracas cobre grande parte da cidade, mas está em colapso: atrasa-se, em certas ocasiões não tem sistema de ventilação, nas horas de ponta é terrível. Todos os planos urbanísticos que foram feitos na Venezuela não foram acompanhados de uma política de planificação económica, de estradas, educacional. Permanecem teses esplêndidas do que se poderia fazer, teses atomizadas, isoladas, únicas, sobretudo aquelas que se fizeram sob a luz da modernidade e as suas promessas nos anos 50. Uma modernidade, ainda para mais, marcada pelo regime totalitário de Marcos Pérez Jiménez, para somar às contradições. Na actualidade, as obras, como a construção de habitações, saem da cartola de mágico dos políticos, traduzem-se em cifras gigantes, necessárias e impossíveis, mas lá estão, promessas urbanísticas, saídas, desta vez, da retórica revolucionária e igualitária. Mas, na realidade, mão se quer construir casas, querem-se votos. No caso da ocupação da conhecida como "Torre de David", as pessoas interessaram-se mais pelo fenómeno que representa um arranha-céus invadido que pelo problema subjacente. Esse arranha-céus representa para nós uma metáfora do país: sorte, deteriorização, abandono, ocupação, hierarquia, caudilhismo, disciplina militar, violência, caos, normas, segurança-insegurança, legalidade-ilegalidade.

Jul 2011


Polis Picks the Best Architecture and Landscape Projects of 2011

In selecting our list of the 10 best works of architecture and landscape architecture in 2011, we at Polis have settled on works that highlight a number of issues dear to us. This was a year of social change, a sputtering economy and fewer big projects — one in which design was decidedly not the only issue. Some of the projects on the list were conceived before the economic downturn but realized afterward. Others reflect the power and give expression to emerging countries. Several directly seize on shifting economic and political contexts. Still others show how architectural values are being reconsidered.

The list is in no particular order. As always, we hope you will add your own picks in comments.

1. 9/11 Memorial in New York, United States (Michael Arad and Peter Walker)

Opening to the public 10 years after the terrorist attacks, the memorial marks the the absence of the Twin Towers and mourns lives lost with simple yet powerful voids set within a large public forest. While the surrounding development has adapted to market pressures and other forces, the memorial itself stayed true to the design architects envisioned nearly a decade ago.

2. Madrid Rio in Madrid, Spain (West 8 and MRIO Arquitectos)

This six-kilometer linear park spanning a sunken motorway connects Madrid's city center and adjacent neighborhoods to the newly rehabilitated Manzanares River. After eight years of delays, dust, noise and traffic jams, residents are finally enjoying unique public spaces and sport facilities.

Source: Landezine

3. Buturo Hospital in Burera District, Rwanda (MASS Design Group)

While most architectural projects in the Global South stem from either the "design" or "development" ends of the spectrum, the Buturo Hospital integrates strong design with progressive development.

Source: Archinect

4. Shibaura House in Tokyo, Japan (Kazuyo Sejima & Associates)

This simple building is primarily the home of a printing company but also provides workshop and educational space to the public — a de facto community center. The delicate structure allows for adaptability and unique interior spaces.

Source: Domus

5. Norwegian Wild Reindeer Center Pavilion in Dovrefjell National Park, Norway (Snøhetta)
The simple yet striking pavilion combines advanced fabrication and design techniques with traditional building practices and locally sourced materials.

Source: ArchDaily

6. Vanke Center in Shenzhen, China (Steven Holl)
This low, long building houses a hotel, apartments and the headquarters of a major Chinese developer. It employs bridge-building technology with the strong concept of a building raised from a reciprocal ground. The result is a sculptural building and open landscape (mostly) accessible to the public.

Source: Natalia Echeverri

7. Guangzhou Opera House in Guangzhou, China (Zaha Hadid)

The Opera House was conceived as an urban catalyst for the new cultural district of this quickly developing Chinese city. The building sits as a striking object along the Pearl River, opening a connection to the waterfront. The design gives considerable attention to the interiors, as swooping and sumptuous as any of Hadid's work.

Source: Iwan Baan

8. The Historic Corner near the Main Square of Reykjavik, Iceland (Studio Granda in association with Gullinsnid and Argos Architects)

This humble reconstruction of a historic block in the city center shows that architects were conscious of the difficulty of (re)creating authenticity. The process behind the project also reveals their faith in architecture as a tool for democratic change and a better society. When private investors planned to purchase the historic, fire-devastated block, Studio Granda opposed. "We had to take of our architect's coats and become activists. To serve the public and not the financial market. To not loose integrity." (Swedish Arkitekten)

Source: Studio Granda

9. Torre Confinanzas in Caracas, Venezuela (2,500 local residents)

Also known as the Tower of David, this is not a new building but a continually re-adapted one. The shell and structure of the building were started and abandoned during the banking boom in Caracas in the late 1980s. Since then, it has been continually "completed" by scores of informal residents, who have molded the tower into a thriving community during the past several decades. This building will never be finished in the traditional sense, but Venezuelan artists Ángela Bonadies and Juan José Olavarría published a work documenting the tower in 2011.

Source: Domus

10. Tents and structures of the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement in Tahrir Square, Zuccotti Park, St Paul's Cathedral, Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Sproul Plaza and other public spaces around the world

The protest movements that sprang up around the world this year were unique, attuned to political and social contexts. But nearly everywhere, the occupation of public space became the stage for redefining these varied agendas. The structures of occupation — tents, shelters, shields, sculptures — are temporary by definition. But that is their power: Destroyed one day, they can be rebuilt the next.

Foreign Policy / Inside David´s Tower

Inside David's Tower

A tour of Venezuela's skyscraper squatter city.

JANUARY 7, 2012

The skyline of Caracas is dotted with modern buildings pushing upward, but some of these buildings have come to symbolize not the successes of Venezuela, but rather its worst failings. As journalist Peter Wilson writes for FP, the "vertical slums" across the city have become symbols "of the depths to which Venezuela has sunk under President Hugo Chávez."
Above is a skyscraper, officially called Edificio Confinanzas but better known as "David's Tower," named after the businessman David Brillembourg. Intended to be the third-highest building in Venezuela, construction on the building stalled after Brillembourg died in 1993 and his business -- a financial consortium called Confinanzas -- failed.
It sat unoccupied, a towering eyesore on the skyline, until 2007, when families began organizing to take over the building. Today, about 2,500 squatters live in the deserted building.

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