Spontaneous Urbanism

March 09 / 2017

The modern urban environment is grossly negligent towards the less privileged sections of society.Caracas in Venezuelais an example of rampant architectural vocabulary which is not endemic to the city and is not inclusive and responsive to all strata of society and their culture. Through a recent book authored by Urban-Think Tank and Chair of Architecture and Urban Design, ETH Zurich, a remarkablesituation of a deserted tower in Caracas called Torre David throws light on the situation.

In the 80's the tower had been envisioned as a sleek mixed use building but the economic meltdown of the 1990s led to it remaining  unoccupied for 13 years. A storm and subsequent flooding of the Barrios in2007 made the informal residents of Caracas take shelter in thismulti-storeyed structure.Years into occupancy, multiple systems of exchange, activity, circulation, interaction and engagement of the occupants with the structure is visible even amidst the chaos.
The partially incomplete structure has invited personal interventions for safety and several other reasons which destructure the rigidity and infuse a sense of uniqueness and individuality within the spaces. A sense of micro governance in the formed co-operativecan be observed since there is ademocratic distribution of services,resolutions of disputes and sharing of resources and habitation. Service infrastructure of two of the floors which had been planned as a hotel has even been hacked to create effective sanitation systems.
 Thus, TorreDavid presents us with an architectural paradox: It amazes that the accidental, incremental, spontaneous and bizarre occupancy of thetower creates a sustainable community – informally living in thecore of the formal city. It also poses a philosophical question for formal architecture as to whether spontaneous spaces can be made possible through intelligent architecture and not merely informal architecture.
 This would mean exploring an untapped urban possibility. Instead of creating a controlled, legal system which promotes disastrous proposals like slum rehabilitations it should be explored if it is possible for designers to imagine partially-controlled systems that not just accommodate but enhance the potential of the accidental.