Imagine a city of office towers and condominiums covered in leafy saplings, aromatic herbs, and indigenous shrubs growing from balconies and filtering the surrounding air as their fronds reach further skyward each day. It may sound like a fantasy world, but for architect Stefano Boeri, this is much more than an architectural rendering—it is a feasible vision for the future.
In 2014, Studio Boeri completed Vertical Forest, a two-tower luxury residential project of urban biodiversity in Milan’s affluent Porta Nuova business district. Seven years in the making, the visual effect of this “metropolitan reforestation” speaks for itself: a living, breathing façade of greenery that evolves over time as the foliage grows.
Expert horticulturalists were brought on board, and the final tally saw both towers planted with 700 trees, 5,000 shrubs, and 15,000 perennials, which play host to 20 bird species and myriad pollinator insects. Plants are watered by specially designed control systems, and each balcony is reinforced with steel to support the weight of the growing greens. For maximum sustainability, solar panels and filtered waste water are used, and the energy efficiency of the building is maximized by the plants themselves: their shade cools interiors in the summer months, and they help to block wind in the winter. Aesthetics aside, the project also reduces air pollution by up to 20,000 kilograms of CO2 per year.
Studio Boeri is not stopping with Italy; a smattering of cities throughout Europe and Asia are planning Vertical Forest projects unique to their own climates. Plans include a 125-unit social housing complex in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, and the largest feat yet—the Liuzhou Forest City in China, the world’s first Vertical Forest City. While there is no estimated date for completion yet, there is hope that the city will one day house 30,000 residents and include schools, hospitals, hotels, and offices. As far as global urban planning goes, this may well signal a seismic shift toward a future of sustainable cities painted with a verdant, forest-green paintbrush.
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