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Zurich professors win at Venice Biennale

Hubert Klumpner (left) and Alfredo Brillembourg Think Tank

Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner, professors of architecture and urban design at the Swiss Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ), have been awarded the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Biennale.

The prize was awarded to Urban-Think Tank (Brillembourg and Klumpner) and  Justin McGuirk for the collaboration’s project exploring the squatted, half-built Torre David skyscraper in Venezuela.

Torre David, a 45-storey building in Caracas, has remained unfinished since the Venezuelan economy collapsed in 1994. Today, it is the improvised home to more than 750 families living in an extra-legal squat. Some people have called it a “vertical slum”.

For one year, Brillembourg, Klumpner and their team studied the physical and social organisation of the community in an attempt to find ways of making the tower more functional and habitable.

According to the citation: “An informal community created a new home and a new identity by occupying Torre David and did so with flair and conviction. This initiative can be seen as an inspirational model acknowledging the strength of informal societies.”

Brillembourg, born in New York, founded Urban-Think Tank in Caracas in 1993. Klumpner, born in Salzburg, joined in 1998.

Also in Venice, the prize for best national participation went to the Japan Pavilion for a collaboration between Toyo Ito, young architects and local communities focusing on rebuilding the country following recent earthquakes.

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