Here’s What The World’s Tallest Slum Looks Like

An intimate look at the lives of the 3,000 people in Caracas’s “Tower of David”.

1. It boasts a helicopter landing pad, glorious views of the Avila mountain range, and large balconies for weekend barbecues.

Jorge Silva / Reuters

Men rest after salvaging metal on the 30th floor of the “Tower of David” skyscraper in Caracas February 3, 2014.

ID: 2854528

2. But it’s no five-star hotel or swanky apartment block: it is a slum, probably the highest in the world.

Jorge Silva / Reuters

Adriana Gutierrez and her son Carlos Adrian watch TV as they sit on their bed in their 24th floor apartment, February 3, 2014.

ID: 2854534

3. It was intended to be a shining new financial centre but was abandoned around 1994 after the death of its developer - banker and horse-breeder David Brillembourg - and the collapse of the financial sector.

Jorge Silva / Reuters

The city is seen from the 44th floor, February 9, 2014.

ID: 2854536

4. In 2007, squatters invaded the huge concrete skeleton.

Jorge Silva / Reuters

A view of the lobby from the top of the skyscraper, February 3, 2014.

ID: 2854540

5. Then-president Hugo Chavez’s socialist government turned a blind eye, and now about 3,000 people call the tower their home.

Jorge Silva / Reuters

Thais Ruiz, 36, talks on the telephone and drinks coffee as she sits under a crack in the roof of her living room on the 27th floor, February 6, 2014.

ID: 2854530

6. “The residents regard it as a safe haven from the violence and turf warfare that blights the capital’s street-level slums,” reports The Independent.

Jorge Silva / Reuters

A shop is seen through a doorway, February 6, 2014.

ID: 2854529

7. Photographer Jorge Silva took these photos in February.

Jorge Silva / Reuters

Maria works in a sewing workshop in her apartment, February 6, 2014.

ID: 2854532

8. On the Reuters blog, he writes: “The tower is a physical example of the greatest problems faced by Venezuelan society: a great scarcity of housing, and a security crisis.”

Jorge Silva / Reuters

A man sits with his family in his apartment, February 3, 2014.

ID: 2854545

9. His first attempts to document people’s lives in 2007 weren’t successful, because the residents were hostile to the media after a critical article about them.

Jorge Silva / Reuters

Teenagers chat on the 10th floor, February 3, 2014.

ID: 2854537

10. It still attracts hostile headlines, and featured in an episode of Homeland as a kidnappers’ den.

Jorge Silva / Reuters

A girl rides a bicycle on a balcony, February 5, 2014.

ID: 2854541

11. Silva writes: “My intention wasn’t to follow on from these headlines. I wanted above all to create a portrait of the lives of the thousands of people who call this place home, and who face struggles and risks every day.”

Jorge Silva / Reuters

Paola Medina, 29, packs as she prepare to leave her apartment after living in the “Tower of David” skyscraper for almost a year, March 25, 2014.

ID: 2854542

12. “I wanted to document without judging.”

Jorge Silva / Reuters

A woman uses her mobile phone during a blackout, March 25, 2014.

ID: 2854544

13. Silva says he felt there was a strong sense of community in the tower.

Jorge Silva / Reuters

Beatriz fills out a crossword while taking care of her grandchildren outside their apartment, February 3, 2014.

ID: 2854546

14. “Inside the building’s long hallways there are warehouses, clothing stores, beauty parlours and day-care centers.”

Jorge Silva / Reuters

A woman looks out of a window at her shop in a corridor, February 6, 2014.

ID: 2854549

15. And on one occasion, a resident told Silva that he thought they were “the richest of the poor”.

Jorge Silva / Reuters
ID: 2854550


This post has been corrected to properly credit The Independent as a source.

ID: 3490074

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Alan White is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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