Skyscraper squatting

The Centro Financiero Confinanzas skyscraper was unfinished at the time of the 1994 Venezuelan banking crisis. In 2007, squatters moved in.

Centro Financiero Confinanzas
Wilfredor / CC0

It takes years and millions of dollars to build a skyscraper. When hard times hit, sometimes construction stops, and when hard times stay, sometimes it never begins again. Perhaps the most famous example is Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea, a 105-storey building begun in 1987 but still unfinished today. Usually these weird tombstones to failed ambition remain unoccupied.

Not in the case of the Centro Financiero Confinanzas, also known as the Tower of David. This 45-storey skyscraper was a victim of the 1994 banking crisis, when many Venezuelan banks failed and were acquired by the government, and it stood empty for many years.

In 2007, while Caracas was in the midst of a serious housing crisis, a bunch of people looked at that big empty skyscraper and thought… why not? I mean, it didn’t have power, or water, or lifts / elevators, or (in many places) windows and walls, but that didn’t stop the first 200 or so families taking it over.

Beginning at the bottom of the skyscraper, they worked their way upwards. Motorcycles got them ten floors (I’m imagining them running up staircases but there are probably ramps), they set up running water as far as the 22nd floor, and people were living as high up as the 28th floor. Shops, salons, even a dentist!

At its peak, the skyscraper housed five thousand people. They were finally moved out by the Venezuelan government in 2014, and the building was damaged by an earthquake in 2018 – the top five floors are now on a bit of a lean. So I hope no-one moves back in again.

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