Markus Kneer, born in Tubingen, Germany, 1982; lives and works in Berlin, Germany
Daniel Schwartz, born in Nairobi, Kenya, 1987; lives and works in Zürich, Switzerland
Alfredo Brillembourg, born in New York, USA, 1961; lives and works in Zürich, Switzerland
Hubert Klumpner, born in Salzburg, Austria, 1965; lives and works in Zürich, Switzerland
Markus Kneer is a filmmaker and cognitive researcher. He studied film at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and has directed a variety of documentaries and fiction films. He is a founding member of Urban-Think Tank Films, and is based in Berlin. Daniel Schwartz is a filmmaker, photographer, and researcher. With a background in anthropology and journalism, his photography and writing have appeared in numerous publications, such as The Guardian and New York Times, and his films have been screened and broadcasted internationally. He currently works as Managing Director of U-TT Media, the film and communications arm of Urban-Think Tank, and researcher in the Brillembourg & Klumpner Chair at ETH Zurich.
This short film is the result of a cinematic collaboration with Profs. Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner, who along with members of the U-TT Chair in the Department of Architecture at ETH Zürich, spent a year studying the physical and social organization of this ruin-turned home. Where some see only a failed development project, the U-TT Chair has conceived of it as a laboratory for the study of the informal.
In one way or another, the third tallest building in Venezuela has been under construction for over twenty-one years. While Torre David (formerly known as the Centro Financiero Confinanzas) stands at an impressive 45 floors in the heart of Caracas’ former central business district, it is unlikely that the building will ever be finished—at least not in the conventional sense. After the developer, David Brillembourg, passed away in 1993 and the financial group supporting the construction collapsed in the wake of the 1994 Venezuelan banking crisis, the tower was abandoned and became a magnet for squatters. Today, it is the improvised, continually revised home for more than 750 families living as a self- organized community in what some have called a vertical slum. That this community has not been riven by the contradictory and potent forces that surround and impinge upon it—that its members have, with great ingenuity and determination, turned a ruin into a home, albeit a precarious and marginal one—is nothing short of astonishing. Torre David, with its magnificent deficiencies and remarkable assets, presents the opportunity to consider how people can create and foster urban communities.