Torre de David Avant la Lettre

PH_02A visionary Caracas urban development abandoned amid political turmoil, squatted on, turned into an epicenter of urban legends and violence…El Helicoide was Torre de David before there was a Torre de David.

Celeste Olalquiaga picks up the fascinating, mostly forgotten story of what’s now Venezuela’s Security Policy headquarters for Failed Architecture.

Nelson Rockefeller tried to buy El Helicoide, but even he couldn’t overcome the legal quagmire that paralyzed the building until the state intervened and took it over. El Helicoide was a feat of the imagination and of technology, yes, but in a context where such things are secondary, where continuity is non-existent and maintenance considered a waste of time, and where purpose falls prey to a proprietary politics that binds the country to its leaders in a perverse filiation.

In the end, El Helicoide stands for exactly the opposite of what it was built to be. Instead of a dynamic center of exchange that might have revitalized the area and its surroundings, the building grew melancholically inward, fated, like an obsessive thought, to repeat its failure over and over again. Rather than expansive, it became sinister, a threatening fortress of “law and order” in a country that endemically ignores both. The building that could have become a symbol of modernity’s progressive thrust became instead an emblem of its failures—of the price paid for wishing to change everything at all costs, for imposing a vision unilaterally, for dreaming for others what they may not want to dream at all. As such, many think that in its ruined condition, El Helicoide offers the most appropriate portrait of a dystopic Caracas.