Will cities of the future be filled with vertical slums?

November 4, 2012

Torre David (credit: Fast Company Co.EXIST)

After a skyscraper in Caracas was abandoned, it quickly became home to 750 families. As cities develop, will slums build up instead of out? Fast Company Co.EXIST explores.

The 45-story Torre David office tower in Caracas, Venezuela, was nearly complete in the early 1990s when a pair of events changed the building’s trajectory forever: First, the project’s developer, David Brillembourg, died in 1993.

Then, the next year, Venezuela’s economy cratered. Torre David, about 90% finished at the time, was abandoned–as both a project and a property.

Looters, not surprisingly, picked over the remains. Then came the families: More than 750 of them who moved in anyway over the years, occupying the skeletal office tower like a kind of vertical slum.

The world’s resourceful poor have for years manufactured makeshift communities on the edges of mega-cities. But this was a notably different model, a one-time high-end high-rise turning the sprawling shantytown on its ear. After all, why should such a formidable structure, designed by Venezuelan architect Enrique Gómez, sit vacant?

If a luxury hotel won’t move in, why can’t the poor? . …