This Space-Age Building Was Meant To Herald An Era Of Hope – But Instead It Became A Notorious Jail

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Image: ARCHIVO FOTOGRAFÍA URBANA / PROYECTO HELICOIDE via BBC

Back in the 1950s, Venezuela looked poised for a bright future – and the space-age El Helicoide was the symbol of the country’s hopes and dreams. Sixty years later, those aspirations lie in tatters, and the once-ambitious project has become something far more sinister. But how did this cutting-edge shopping mall become one of the region’s most feared buildings?

Image: Paolo Costa Baldi

Ever since Venezuela declared its independence in 1811, the country has seen its fair share of political unrest. A series of dictators has inflicted their will upon the people. And even though vast oil reserves were discovered in the region in the early 20th century, its citizens have enjoyed little of the wealth generated by this valuable resource.

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Image: via WIkimedia Commons

As the dust of World War I settled, Venezuela was able to begin capitalizing on its oil. And soon, the country had shifted from an agricultural economy towards a modern, industrial state. At first, however, the main beneficiary of this development was Juan Vicente Gómez, the military general who ruled as a dictator from 1908 until 1935.

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