Squatters in Skyscrapers

Today’s New York Times features and article about an abandoned 45 story building in downtown Caracas that has become one of the world’s tallest squatter settlements.  Built in the 1990’s the “Tower of David,” after its architect and financier David Brillembourg, now houses over 2,500 squatters.  The New York Times also made a great a video about life in the tower.

This tower in Caracas is just one of many hundreds, perhaps thousands of abandoned towers in the world that have provided informal housing for urban poor populations.  Below is a list of a few other towers originally intended for rich urban residents, but now occupied by some of the poorest.

Sao Paulo Treme-Treme was filled with squatters up until the city began to empty it in 2004.  It was not until 2009 however that this 27 story tall tower was successfully cleared of squatters and now it sits empty awaiting demolition.



Rio de Janeiro Torre Abraham Lincoln is one of two never completed towers designed by Oscar Niemeyer as part of Lucio Costa’s master planned southwest expansion of Rio de Janerio in the 1960s.  Each tower has 37 floors, 454 apartments and is 110 meters high. In 2004 more than 400 people from the surrounding favelas invaded the Torre Abraham Lincoln as squatters. Watch a video from PARAÍSO OCUPADO to learn more about the towers today.

Bangkok The Sathorn Tower in Bangkok is also known as a “ghost tower” because supposedly no one lives in the 50 story abandoned building.  Built during the 1990s it is one of many victims of the Asian Financial Crisis of the period.  It is a beautiful example however of one of just over a few hundred abandoned buildings in Bangkok, many of which are occupied by squatters.  See more photos from 6000Times.

There are also many tall abandoned buildings in the U.S., however none of them seem to be as overtaken by squatters as these towers abroad.  Here is a list of 12 tall abandon buildings throughout  the world that also includes many examples in the U.S. including.  As our cities throughout the world change more sustainable methods of adaptive reuse will certainly need to be explored for these buildings to maintain their historic and architectural significance.  However converting them to more affordable forms of housing instead of restoring them as high rise condominiums may be one of the best and most viable options.

– Melissa



  1. amyloufaust

    That’s so interesting. Remember the guy that was squatting in the Empire State Building last year?

  2. Pingback: Squatters in Skyscrapers (via Encountering Urbanization) « Urban Observatory

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