Centro Financiero Confinanzas—the skyscraper widely known as Torre de David (Tower of David) after David Brillembourg, the wealthy banker who developed the building—was abandoned midway through construction because of Venezuela’s banking crisis in 1994. The video above reveals how the skyscraper has transformed into the tallest slum in the world through the illegal occupation of 2,500 Caracas residents and business owners who live in the half-completed construction site. Although living conditions are sometimes dangerous—there are no functioning elevators leading to the 28 of the 45 occupied floors—residents have managed to pool their money for basic amenities, and maintain fully operating businesses such as bodegas, a dentist office, a hair salon, and even a day care service.
In three districts of Utrecht, Netherlands, designers Rikkert Paauw and Jet van Zwieten turned city dumpsters into micro buildings that serve public functions in an effort to demonstrate the unrealized potential of urban waste. Their initiative – called Foundation Projects—builds the ‘Recykiosks’ with materials found on the streets and donated by locals to serve specific functions depending on their location. One Recykiosk, a “flexible public bar,” can be used at public events by transporting the bar to the site by a dumpster truck. Last month, the kiosks transformed a public space into a place for debate, music, and performance in Utrecht’s city center, revealing the potential for independent, mobile kiosks to facilitate programs that promote civic gathering and activity.
Street artist Francisco de Pajaro puts new life into abandoned trash left on the streets of London to draw attention to the massive piles of garbage that go largely unnoticed. His vibrant, playful sculptures push passersby to acknowledge how easily waste is discarded and forgotten. As Pajaro states, “We consume a lot, and rubbish is a part of that, it’s people wasting things…they don’t want it, because one little bit is broken, because they don’t want to fix it, that’s the capitalist mindset, so I give it life….” By using humor, Pajaro’s site-specific art installations creatively highlight an aspect of urban street life that might be reconsidered when placed in a new context.
Burning Man is an annual celebratory event where 55,000 participants gather in the desert of Black Rock City, Nevada to build a temporary city driven by collaboration, innovation, entrepreneurship, and creativity. Through the Burning Man experience, participants or “Burners” are pushed to see the places where they live and work in a new way, and lead efforts for creating positive change within their own communities. For instance, in 2005, Burning Man participants traveled from the event at Black Rock City to Pearlington, Mississippi, where they applied the principles of the Burning Man culture to post-Hurricane Katrina relief efforts—by planning civic actions and programs that fostered community building—in a town that had otherwise been abandoned after the storm.
Yemeni artist and political activist Murad Sobay created an awareness campaign called the 12th Hour to reveal some of the country’s political concerns, expressed though murals, graffiti, and paintings throughout Sana’a, the capital city of Yemen. The interventions were revealed hour-by-hour as part of a non-violent participatory campaign that transformed Sana’a’s streets into a series of visual interventions that focused on gun violence, religious sectarianism, kidnappings, and incarcerations.
Check out this article about the network of mainly female aspiring entrepreneurs who are using the “Avon Lady” traveling sales strategy to bring knowledge and goods to the most remote areas of Africa. Following the precedent of now multibillion-dollar enterprises that became successful using this strategy—such as Avon and Amway—entrepreneurs are able to tap into the markets with the biggest need for access to basic goods and services. Among the companies and NGOs that have been successful with this model is The Paradigm Project, which has generated $3.5 million in the last 18 months by selling products such as stoves, solar light bulbs, and water filters.