There are conventional ideas about how the average person makes a home for themselves and potentially a family, too. In London, an intensifying housing shortage, unrelenting interest from foreign investors and a dearth of rights for renters all contribute to a frenzied preoccupation with the great search for a city-based home. We can’t help peering into the windows of estate agents as we pass by, “just curious”, and then wishing we hadn’t looked because £1,500,000 for a leasehold of a small house is, frankly, depressing. We lament rising rents and energy bills and demonise landlords in conversations with friends and colleagues. UK-wide, we watch reality TV shows addressing the challenges of home renovation or moving house entirely.
I’m as guilty any other for whining about the plight of young people trying to make a living in the city. Yet recently, I received a healthy dose of perspective, in the form of an evocative photography exhibition at the Barbican. Constructing Worlds is a skillfully curated exploration of how people interact with architecture. This is where I first learned about Torre David in Caracas, Venezuela: an unfinished office building that many call home.
The 45-floor tower could easily have stood as a relic, a painful reminder of the economic collapse of the country in the late ’90s. However, its appropriation by hard-up urban inhabitants has turned a negative into a positive. Thousands have set up home and shop in the building, creating living spaces with found objects and establishing businesses that serve the emergent micro-community such as hair salons and grocery shops. Photographer Iwan Baan has has captured their lives through his camera lens, neither to pity nor romanticise a less-than-ideal state of affairs, but rather to showcase real human ingenuity and resourcefulness.
Conceptualising your home needn’t involve kitsch furnishings or the perfect feng shui.