SkyHouse is residence constructed within a previously unoccupied penthouse structure at the summit of one of the earliest surviving skyscrapers in New York City.
With its steep hipped roof of projecting dormers and chimneys set over a base of enormous arched windows, the exterior of the penthouse gives the impression of an ornate Beaux-Art mansion suspended midway within the iconic vertical cityscape of Lower Manhattan. But this exterior shell was essentially an ornament for the skyline; inside was a raw space with only the original riveted steel structure -among the earliest steel frame of any surviving tower in New York- providing evidence of the late 19th century when the building was built.
The enormous angel caryatids at the corners of the four-story penthouse which crowns this building serve to advertise its original role the headquarters of the American Tract Society, a publisher of religious literature which constructed this early skyscraper in 1895.
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Torre David, a 45-story skyscraper in Caracas, has remained uncompleted since the Venezuelan economy collapsed in 1994. Today, it is the improvised home to more than 750 families living in an extra-legal and tenuous squat, that some
have called a “vertical slum.”
Urban-Think Tank, the authors of Torre David: Informal Vertical Communities, spent a year studying the physical and social organization of this ruin-become home. Richly illustrated with photographs by Iwan Baan, the book documents the
residents’ occupation of the tower and how, in the absence of formal infrastructure, they organize themselves to provide for daily needs, with a hair salon, a gym, grocery shops, and more. The authors of this thought-provoking work investigate informal vertical communities and the architecture that supports them and issue a call for action: to see in informal settlements a potential for innovation and experimentation, with the goal of putting design in service to a more equitable and sustainable future.
All text and Images via Lars-Mueller Publishers