Living Megastructures

(2003 – 2004) 25 mins, colour, Austria/Germany/Venezuela. D: Sabine Bitter, Helmut Weber

23 de Enero housing development: In only three years, from 1954-57, about nine thousand apartments were built under the dictatorship of Perez Jimenez. Led by Venezuelan architect Carlos Raul Villanueva, the project of urbanization aimed to apply modernism to Venezuela and to eradicate the unsightly barrios from the surface of the city. During the uprising against the dictatorship in 1958, campesinos and the poor squatted four thousand of the nine thousand apartments. The facades still witness the process of appropriation of the modernist urban structures but the alterations visually recall the participatory practices in architecture we know from the Netherlands or Belgium in the seventies. Today people tell us that the superblocs are also called ?the vertical barrios”.  In the video, Caraque?os are interviewed about the everyday use of two megastructures ? the new Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the insurgent and informal urbanism of the historically and politically central 23 de Enero. The answers of the architects, social activists, governmental experts, artists and people who live in 23 de Enero who are interviewed examine the relationship between these two productive forces which shape Caracas. The problematic of appropriation is overturned ? the limits of appropriation are challenged by new spatial and social relations that smash the program of the oppressive local modernism and open up to greater social participation.