Sherina S. Zhang

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 5-2016




architecture, construction, subtraction, new, old, demolition




Architectural Engineering | Architectural Technology | Construction Engineering | Other Architecture


The life of a building does not begin at the creation of the new; it starts with the subtraction of the old. As the pace of technological development accelerates, buildings are erected and demolished at an unprecedented rate. Cities use their urban artifacts like skyscrapers, to portray economic and political prowess. For example, the ghost cities of China are relics of a burst financial bubble while Venezuelan ruling party elites name business towers after themselves as a show of power and prosperity. Many parts of the world today are now overbuilt with artifacts that decline into obsolescence. Demolition procedures erase the failures and mistakes of our architectural predecessors. When Pruit Igoe was demolished, the incident marked not only the collapse of a housing complex but also represented the end of modernist deign. Now, more than ever, architecture needs to understand demolition and the subtractive procedures as both a tool to reduce overproduction in the world, and as a technique for space-making. Bernard Tsuchumi once state: "there is no space without even, no architecture without program". This thesis contends that a series of programmed demolition events within the Torre David will reclaim an urban space lost to overproduction.

In 1990, David Brillembourg was commissioned to build the Torre David, in the business district of downtown Caracas but construction came to a standstill in 1994 due to the financial collapse. Famously FOX News has given the Torre David, the ignoble nom-de-plume "the world's tallest slum". Over time, up to 85 families occupied the abandoned buildings and made it their home. As of July 2014, the Venezuelan government launched "Operation Zamora 2014" to relocate these families in prepare for building demolition.

This thesis proposes three possible scenarios for the demolition of obsolescent towers. The first and second scenarios propose are standard demolition procedures while the third scenario inserts speculative design and planning into the typically staid demolition process. Each scenario crafts different temporal frames. Scenario one creates an urban spectacle through implosive demolition over the time span of 20 minutes. Scenario two aims to create a sustainable and low uimpact demolition process over the course of 2 years. Scenario three utilizes five programmed events that are incorporated into the existing routines of the occupants of the Torre David to generate a new method for building demolition. Each of these five events modify common methods of subtraction and carving by incorporating unique specificities generated by each device use for demolition. Together the five events would complete the process of demolition of the Torre David and frame a rubble landscape in downtown Caracas.


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