The tallest slum in the world: Venezuelan skyscraper made famous by TV thriller Homeland has 45 floors, a helipad and large balconies with wonderful mountain views... but is home to squatters
For Nicholas Brody, the star of hit U.S. TV show Homeland, the half-finished Tower of David in Venezuela was both a prison and a refuge.
On the run as a wanted Al Qaeda terrorist, the shaven-headed Brody, played by the English actor Damian Lewis, got sucked into a world of gun-wielding thugs and drug abuse.
But for the people who live there in real-life the tower made famous by the TV show is their home.
Standing 45 storeys tall, complete with helicopter landing pad and glorious views of the Avila mountain range, it was built with the intention of becoming a shining new financial centre in Venezuela's capital.
Since it was abandoned roughly 20 years ago, amid a massive run on the country's banking sector and the death of its developer, this incomplete skyscraper has been transformed into what has been described as the tallest slum in the world.
The building was seized by squatters in 2007, when then-President Hugo Chavez's socialist government turned a blind eye, and now about 3,000 people call it their home.
Standing tall: The incomplete skyscraper, dubbed the Tower of David, stands 45 storeys tall in the city of Caracas, Venezuela
Home: Adriana Gutierrez and her son Carlos Adrian watch TV as they sit on their bed in their 24th floor apartment inside the skyscraper
Salvage operation: Men rest after salvaging metal on the 30th floor of the 'Tower of David' skyscraper in Caracas in February
Incomplete: Children stand along the corridors of the skyscraper, which was intended to be a shining new financial centre but ended up being abandoned in 1994
Yet while many residents of Caracas view the skyscraper as a den of thieves and a symbol of disrespect for property, residents see it as a safe haven from the city's crime-ridden slums.
'There is far more order and far less crime in here than out there,' 27th-floor resident Thais Ruiz, 36, told Reuters.
Like many inhabitants, Ruiz abandoned her shack in the violent Petare slum of east Caracas in 2010 to build a spacious four-bedroom apartment in the tower where she lives with her husband and five children. The family at first lived in a tent in a space initially intended to be a fancy corner office with a vista, but over the years they hauled bricks, furniture, water tanks and even barbecue equipment up the 27 flights of stairs to build their home.
'I never lived in an apartment before. We're so comfortable now,' she says. 'We had to get out of Petare and the daily gang shootouts. Once we found a dead body on our doorstep. Now look, we can leave the door wide open.'
The building does seem to have escaped the violence and turf warfare that has followed similar building takeovers in the city over the last ten years.
Occupied: Children ride bicycles on one of the top inhabited floors of the 'Tower of David' skyscraper in Caracas. Squatters seized the building in 2007
Safe haven: Men salvage metal on the 30th floor of the abandoned skyscraper in Caracas. Residents see the building as a safe haven from the city's slums
Tallest slum in the world: Work was sufficiently advanced by the time the tower was abandoned for the first 28 floors to be habitable
Security: Families pay a 200 bolivar ($32) monthly 'condominium' fee, which helps fund 24-hour security patrols
Working out: Gabriel Rivas, 30, lifts weights on a balcony on the 28th floor of the Caracas skyscraper. The building has featured in an episode of U.S. TV drama Homeland
Communal corridors are freshly-polished, rules and rotas are posted everywhere, and non-compliance is punished with extra 'social work' decided by a cooperative and floor delegates who make up a mini-government.
Work was sufficiently advanced by the time the tower was abandoned for the first 28 floors to be habitable, though the squatters have had to brick up dangerous open spaces, and put in their own basic plumbing, electrical and water systems.
Families pay a 200 bolivar ($32) monthly 'condominium' fee, which helps fund 24-hour security patrols.
Yet few deny the conditions can still be precarious.
One young girl fell to her death through a hole in the wall a few years ago, while a drunk motorcyclist rode off an edge and killed himself.
Leaving for work: A man, who is on his way to work, walks through the lobby of the 'Tower of David' skyscraper in Caracas
Business: A woman looks out of a window of her shop in a corridor inside the skyscraper. The building does seem to have escaped the violence and turf warfare that has followed similar building takeovers in the city over the last ten year
Living conditions: Thais Ruiz, 36, talks on the telephone and drinks coffee as she sits under a crack in the roof of her living room on the 27th floor of the skyscraper
At work: Maria works in a sewing workshop in her apartment inside the tower. Residents acknowledge the tower had problems with crime but insist miscreants have been kicked out over the last 18 months, and that a new leadership is keeping the house in order
The building has been dubbed the 'Tower of David' in honour of its developer - financier and horse-breeder David Brillembourg.
It has also featured in an episode of U.S. TV drama Homeland, while doocumentaries annd analyses of the tower have been shown at art festivals around the world.
The tower however is not without its problems - neighboours in the area surrounding the tower have complained of robberies, ATM hold-ups, and drug trafficking taking place under the noses of authorities.
Residents acknowledge the tower has had problems with crime but insist miscreants have been kicked out over the last 18 months, and that a new leadership is keeping the house in order.
'Everyone thinks we're a bunch of thieves and thugs in here. We are not "invaders", we're occupants of an empty space,' argues another resident, Luis Raul Pinto, 63.
The former government employee drives a taxi by day before clambering up to his roomy apartment every evening.
Rules: Communal corridors inside the building are freshly-polished, rules and rotas are posted everywhere, and non-compliance is punished with extra 'social work' decided by a cooperative and floor delegates who make up a mini-government
Leaving: Paola Medina, 29, packs as she prepare to leave her apartment after living in the 'Tower of David' skyscraper for almost a year
Residents: A girl rides a bicycle on a balcony in the 'Tower of David'. Though the tower could be viewed as an indictment of his housing policy, inhabitants appear fiercely 'Chavista'
'Sometimes, I'm driving customers and they look up at the tower and tut "Look at those criminals in there". When I drop them off, I tell them "Hey, I live in the Tower of David, I'm not a criminal, come and have a coffee with me some time".'
Though the tower could be viewed as an indictment of his housing policy, inhabitants appear fiercely 'Chavista'.
Posters of Chavez, under the phrase 'Eternal Commander', adorn walls. Some have photos of him by their beds. The former president, who died last year of cancer, spoke affectionately of the tower's residents several times.
'Chavez's legacy is the values you see right here in this tower,' said Nicolas Alvarez, a 38-year-old filmmaker who first entered the tower to give photography courses. He ended up moving in after getting married and struggling to find a home.
'What Chavez did was to rescue the sense that we all have the same right to live on this planet.'