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Green Architecture Reaches New Heights with Milan’s Vertical Forest

bosco verticale rendering

The world’s first vertical forest paves the way for advances in urban ecology. 

As Earth’s population rapidly moves past sustainable levels, the need for groundbreaking advances in the reduction of C02 emissions has become increasingly apparent. Architect Stefan Boeri with Boeri Studio seeks to reduce pollution in Milan by creating the world’s first bosco verticale, or vertical forest.

Although vertical gardens, which are self-sufficient plots attached to the exterior or interior walls of buildings, have been around for over three decades, Boeri’s design takes the concept to a new level. Inhabit reports that his vertical forest, which consists of two apartment towers standing 260 and 367 feet tall, can accommodate approximately 2.5 acres of vegetation in the form of 20,000 plants, shrubs, perennial flowers, and trees. The trees are being placed on a series of overlapping concrete balconies and will work as a multipurpose filter as they absorb CO2 and dust, produce oxygen, and create a microclimate within the apartments. The buildings implement photovoltaic power to provide energy and a grey-water filtration system to water the plants with used sink and shower water.

The vertical forest is the first of six phases in BioMilano, an ecological vision that is hoping for a revitalized and greener metropolis in Italy. The project brought together a group of architects, engineers, and botanists who collaborated to make the vision a reality. The architects and engineers were responsible for designing terraces that can withstand the heavy weight of the trees, while the botanists carefully selected trees to be pre-cultivated in nurseries for two years. Uprooting and transplanting the trees from the nursery to the balconies is the most difficult step in the process, so these trees were specially chosen and grown to acclimate to their new environment. Once they have been relocated, the trees are held in place with specially designed soil made of organic compounds that keep the roots aerated and allow the trees to grow. When the project is complete, a team of gardeners will perform upkeep on the vegetation three times a year.

The project should be finished by 2015, and architects are hopeful that Milan’s vertical forest will pave the way for further advances in urban ecology. Perhaps this green architecture will be replicated on an international level, becoming a staple in cities across the world. Until then, Boeri says, “I really hope these two buildings can become the landmark of the new Milano.”

Photo by Carlo Alberto Mari.