Night School: Torre David – Recap

By Jeff Sandler
August 9, 2016

Thank you everyone who came out for our first summer Night School! We have been on a little bit of a break, taking advantage of all that the Seattle summer has to offer, and we hope you have too. It was great to regroup and share the brand new Board & Vellum event space, Below Grade, with all who attended. As always, we ate, drank, and discussed. And fun was had by all!

We started the evening with a screening of Urban Think Tank’s Torre David. In its brief 25 minutes, the film captures a glimpse of what life was like in the unfinished Caracas office-tower-turned-impromptu-settlement for 1,000 families in the early 2000s. During the Venezuelan housing and economic crisis, a large group of homeless families organized and managed to create a fully functioning community that they were proud of in the concrete skeleton of the Centro Financiero Confinanzas. For nearly a decade, this unplanned settlement functioned harmoniously, only ending after the local government intervened and relocated the families into state housing.

Our conversation largely centered on providing adequate housing, and what makes for successful dwelling. One observation from the group was that not only were the inhabitants of Torre David living there, they were proud of where they lived. The residents had a sense of accomplishment and ownership over their personal spaces that they had to labor over, carrying building materials as high as 28 stories to create a space to call their own. It was clear that from this sense of ownership, the residents treated the communal and private spaces with respect, even organizing different committees to address issues as they came up. It was inspiring to see the human ingenuity in crafting living spaces within this unexpected setting. This sense of ownership and pride for one’s space is something the architectural community is starting to catch onto, as evident in this year’s Pritzker Prize winner, Alejandro Aravena’s, work.

We also discussed the connection between “good design” and comfort. One guest discussed research showing that rationally laid out spaces actually reduced stress levels in visitors. This lead to a discussion of the model of how Salt Lake City has helped to reduce their homeless population by simply providing homes for the homeless. The city found that the cost of medical care for individuals living on the street far outweighed the cost of providing housing, truly showing how a comfortable space of one’s own facilitates both mental and physical health.

The group discussion last week was really rewarding, as we probed the significance of personal and communal space, social housing, adapting to one’s surroundings, and human ingenuity. Thank you everyone for making it a fun evening!

Stay tuned for the next Night School with Board & Vellum, on August 31 to discuss the Architecture of Small Business: How Design Can Facilitate Successful Businesses, with special guests from Seattle’s active small business community.

As always, our events are left intentionally somewhat ambiguous so that Night School can evolve and adapt to the group and topic. Your presence and participation helps shape our events, and no two evenings are the same because of that. We look forward to seeing you soon.

For more information about Night School, get in touch with us! And, visit our past posts about Night School on The B&V Blog.

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