Dates: August 29-November 25, 2012
Location: 13th International Architectural Exhibition-la Biennale di Venezia
Torre David, a 45-story office tower in Caracas designed by the distinguished Venezuelan architect Enrique Gómez, was almost complete when it was abandoned following the death of its developer, David Brillembourg, in 1993 and the collapse of the Venezuelan economy in 1994. Today, it is the improvised home of a community of more than 750 families, living in an extra-legal and tenuous occupation that some have called a vertical slum.
Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner, along with their research and design teams at Urban-Think Tank and ETH Zürich, spent a year studying the physical and social organization of this ruin-turned-home. Where some only see a failed development project, U-TT has conceived it as a laboratory for the study of the informal. In this exhibit and in their forthcoming book, Torre David: Informal Vertical Communities, the architects lay out their vision for practical, sustainable interventions in Torre David and similar informal settlements around the world. They argue that the future of urban development lies in collaboration among architects, private enterprise, and the global population of slum-dwellers. Brillembourg and Klumpner issue a call to arms to their fellow architects to 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.
In the spirit of the Biennale’s theme, Common Ground, the installation takes the form of a Venezuelan arepa restaurant, creating a genuinely social space rather than a didactic exhibition space. The residents of Torre David have similarly created a variety of common grounds—for sports, leisure, worship, and meetings—that reinforce the cohesive nature of this settlement.
Even before its opening, this installation has inspired intense debate in the Venezuelan architectural community. Many are dismayed that the nation’s architectural accomplishments are “represented” by a never-completed and “ruined” work; others argue that the exhibit condones the Venezuelan government’s tacit and explicit support of illegal seizure and occupation of property. In fact, none of these positions reflects the true nature and purpose of the exhibit. It, and its creators, avoid taking political sides, arguing that Torre David represents not Venezuelan architecture but rather an experiment in informal/formal hybridity and a critical moment in the global phenomenon of informal living. With the aim of developing the debate over Torre David and similar sites in other cities, the installation includes many of the letters and newspaper articles that have appeared in response to the announcement of this exhibition.
Dates: October 15, 2011-January 9th, 2012
Location: The Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, in the UN Headquarters Visitors Center
U-TT’s Vertical Gym prototype is featured as one of the global design solutions in the show, Design with the Other 90%: CITIES.
From the exhibit website:
For the first time in history, the majority of the earth’s approximately seven billion inhabitants live in cities. Close to one billion people live in informal settlements, commonly known as slums or squatter settlements, and that number is projected to swell to two billion by 2030, pushing beyond the capacity of many local institutions to cope.
Lured to the city in search of work and greater social mobility or fleeing conflicts and natural disasters, many urban migrants suffer from insecure land tenure, limited access to basic services such as sanitation and clean water, and crowded living conditions. At the same time, these informal cities, full of culture and life, increase opportunities to create solutions to the problems they face.
Design with the Other 90%: CITIES features sixty projects, proposals, and solutions that address the complex issues arising from the unprecedented rise of informal settlements in emerging and developing economies. Divided into six themes—Exchange, Reveal, Adapt, Include, Prosper and Access—to help orient the visitor, the exhibition shines the spotlight on communities, designers, architects, and private, civic, and public organizations that are working together to formulate innovative approaches to urban planning, affordable housing, entrepreneurship, nonformal education, public health, and more. The United Nations offers an ideal setting to examine these complex issues and connect with stakeholders who can impart real change.
Dates: October 8-30, 2011
Location: Centro Cultural Recoleta, Buenos Aires
U-TT was featured in the Buenos Aires Biennale of Architecture for their Metro Cable, Vertical Gyms, School for Autistic Children and the Grotão urban revitalization projects. For more information,visit the Bienal Website.