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An overview of the ranchos of caracas

The Best Ad in History: Capturing Caracas

El major anuncio de la historia The best ad in history. Ranchos are the forms of informal housing that cover the hills surrounding the city. Clusters of self-built ranchos form larger neighbourhoods referred to as barrios — similar to the Brazilian favelas.

Advertisements seen from one of the highways that crosses the valley of Caracas. Overnight, it went from an insignificant Spanish post-colony to a country promising modernity and opportunity. Highways and other infrastructural projects made way for industrial conglomerates and multinationals, setting an example for modernisation in Latin America.

Venezuela developed into a nation of consumption and in the process the visual identity of Caracas became ever more reflected in the excess of advertisement. All the while, international influence on the economy started to translate into international influence on society. Filled with optimism at what a new life in Caracas could offer, thousands left the countryside to seek their fortune in the big city.

An overview of the ranchos of caracas

However, the housing solutions provided by the government could not keep up with the rapid rural exodus. Besides, the housing units increasingly failed to meet the ambitious expectations of the original plan, proved too segregated and often developed into dangerous no-go areas.

  • In 2012 she moved to Amsterdam and graduated with a degree in Design Cultures, after which she co-founded Unidxd, a research collective focusing on design problems in the urban environment;
  • Spectacular venezuela, home to some of south america's most incredible landscapes, rightly has a terrible image problem at the moment hyperinflation has led to a dramatic drop in living standards and issues with the supply of basic goods, while personal safety, particularly in caracas, is worse than anywhere else on the continent;
  • Torre de David, the skyscraper that promised to be a modernising project and symbol of economic power, was abandoned unfinished;
  • Yet the ever-present paranoia of the upper-class in Caracas is almost more palpable than the danger here; I could not count the number of times that I was told to be careful in Caracas, and cautioned that Caracas is peligrosisimo very dangerous , and sucio dirty too, deemed by many not even worth visiting because of this;
  • The right picture zooms into the details of the state when occupied.

Little by little, waves of ranchos engulfed the hills surrounding the Caracas valley. Crime ridden and overcrowded, it is a viral law unto itself, a place where the police seldom go if they can help it.

Tropical Babel

These are the kind of hybrid forms that are developing in Latin American cities, where the rational vision of the mid twentieth century is giving way to the ineluctable logic of the informal city. With a minimum of resources and a collaborative approach people build their own homes according to what best suits their needs. This more recent development suggests that these informal units have the unusual ability to transcend typical housing typologies. Between 1990 and 1995 Venezuela remained the Latin American country with the highest registered income per capita.

But these records did not reflect the reality of growing poverty. Torre de David, the skyscraper that promised to be a modernising project and symbol of economic power, was abandoned unfinished. In 2007, large groups of poor individuals and low-income families affected by the housing crisis in the country carried out an illegal occupation of the structure, at the time aided by a law which stipulated that any unoccupied building could be taken up as a residence.

The left picture represents how the building was supposed to be. The right picture zooms into the details of the state when occupied.

The way the Tower was inhabited bears a great resemblance to the mass occupation of the hills around Caracas after the economic boom. So too does its reconstruction by the new inhabitants: Torre de David inhabited.

Alberto Rojas From a dilapidated ruin, Torre de David was born again as the home and indeed working space for 1156 families. Maybe too much attention, since in July 2014, the government initiated a process of relocation of all its inhabitants.

The main message Moving such a large group of people meant the implementation of a wide-ranging governmental strategy. Started in 2011 by Hugo Chavez, this plan had already emerged to try and solve the continuing housing problem of Caracas. Again, huge buildings containing multifamily units have been built all over the country, some of them on prime locations in Caracas, while some have ironically been settled next to already established barrios, further from the urban centre.

En masse, the idea of home and communal integration is once again being forced upon large groups of people by governmental planning. All this is a shame because the bottom-up housing revolution that has organically presented itself over the years could be more than a temporary expression of poverty.

Even more excitingly, it could be seen as an attempt to develop a specifically Latin-American housing prototype. Over a period of more than 60 years their efforts have shaped the habits of a large community. Meanwhile, Torre de David remains a mark of Venezuelan times, lacking a clear purpose, and sporting the biggest political poster in the country.

Alas, they remain wedded to a wholly inappropriate top-down modernist solution that has failed once already. Meanwhile, international brands such as Maggi have been much quicker to articulate these local behaviours, integrating their brand communication with the natural urban environments of the city. By embracing them, they get the opportunity to use it to their advantage.

In 2012 she moved to Amsterdam and graduated with a degree in Design Cultures, after which she co-founded Unidxd, a research collective focusing on design problems in the urban environment.