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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

7. Photographer Jorge Silva took these photos in February.

Jorge Silva / Reuters

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

12. “I wanted to document without judging.”

Jorge Silva / Reuters

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

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.

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.

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

Jorge Silva / Reuters


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

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Alan White is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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