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TV Series 'Homeland' Ventures into Urban Reality

TV Series 'Homeland' Ventures into Urban Reality

Residential News » Global Property Beat | By Kevin Brass | October 18, 2013 8:25 AM ET



As fans of the series "Homeland" already know, the tense CIA thriller took a surreal turn this week, when Marine/Terrorist/Ex-Congressman Nicholas Brody suddenly appears in a bleak, urban landscape in the middle of Caracas, Venezuela.
  
Brody's latest hell is an abandoned skyscraper that has been taken over by squatters and mysterious criminals, a bizarre setting out of some dark, post-apocalyptic science fiction film.

But the abandoned tower, Torre David, is very real and widely discussed in both the economic and urban planning communities.

On one hand, the half-finished, 45-story tower is a stark symbol of the economic collapse and the malaise that has consumed Venezuela. The developer went bankrupt in 1994, part of the tale of greed and malice that led to the building's abandonment.

Eventually the squatters took over, turning the hulk into a thriving community. More than 750 families live in the tower, making a home out of the ruins.

Rather than a symbol of anarchy, some urban planners see Torre David as an example of spontaneous urban regeneration. Without spending millions on architects, refurbishing and new materials, the squatters created a working example of low-cost housing, as well as one of the world's largest test cases for repurposing a skyscraper.

With little resources, the squatters have developed their own elaborate systems for water, power and other necessities. As a community, the squatters have developed schools, recreation and many of the trappings of traditional communities, creating their own mechanisms for administering the space.  

Urban Think Tank, a Swiss-based design firm, has become the experts on all things Torre David. The firm won a Golden Lion for a Torre David exhibit at the Venice Biennale in 2012 and issued a book on the tower, which it refers to alternatively as "an informal urban settlement" or the "world's tallest squat."

Torre David is more than simply a vertical slum, Urban Think Tank argues. Builders and designers can learn from the ways the squatters have adapted the space and converted the abandoned tower into a place for people to live, they say.

Architects and designers should "see in the informal settlements of the world a potential for innovation and experimentation, with the goal of putting design in the service of a more equitable and sustainable future," the group writes.

In "Homeland," Torre David is depicted as macabre prison, a place of violence, drugs and bizarre characters. But that's just TV, an illusion. The scenes were actally shot in Puerto Rico, according to media reports.
 
Video: Inside Torre David



Video: World's Tallest Squat



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