Growing up green: Vertical urban forests

Want to live close to nature without having to move away from a cultural, economic, or social hub?  Residents of Milan, Italy no longer have to compromise urban life for the peace of pastoral living.  Architect Stefano Boeri has been commissioned to build the world’s first vertical forest, the Bosco Verticale, within the heart of the city.

The dual towers will stand 27 stories tall and will be home to over 900 trees, 5,000 shrubs, and 11,000 ground cover plants.  On flat ground, the amount of vegetation housed within the towers would be equivalent to nearly 10,000 square meters of forest.  The plants are irrigated by the building’s grey water systems.  In addition to producing oxygen and processing carbon dioxide, the Bosco Verticale helps in the creation of a micro-climate by filtering dust particles, creating humidity, and protecting from solar radiation and airborne toxins.  As one of the most polluted cities in Europe, Milan has been especially compelled to lead the way for innovative environmental design.

The Bosco Verticale project is part of an effort of metropolitan reforestation that is seen as critical to the survival of modern cities. Boeri’s firm has also created designs for other environmentally enlightened  structures including Solid Waves, a green-walled skyscraper complex in Astana, Kazakhstan. Three small towers bend horizontally at ground level to form sheltered residences and courtyards, each covered in a facade of vegetation that acts as insulation, air scrubber, and combination rainwater filter and sponge.  The layout allows for maximum sunlight to illuminate the dwellings and ample open spaces for residents to enjoy the outdoor green areas.

In more densely populated provinces such as Chongquing, China, architects have formulated plans to take advantage of vertical space by establishing gardens on each level of the highrise they have dubbed Urban Forest.  The design aims to re-invoke the cultural affection for nature while also acting as an iconic symbol of cutting edge technology and economic prosperity.   Taking advantage of a thriving civic center, the Urban Forest would house a large number of people without contributing to sprawl, and maintain a vital psychological connection to the natural world.

Between the increasingly popular movements towards establishing rooftop gardens, balcony green zones, and vertical farming, the green revolution is certainly on the upswing.  Sustainability and living in harmony with the earth — now that’s something we can look up to.

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