The Vertical Forest / by Britt Hysen

The age of green is upon us. We have reached a point in our human evolution where science, math, and creative genius have discovered a way to suspend a living forest in mid air. The answer to city pollution is now Stefano Boeri’s Bosco Verticale, the world’s first 27-story microclimate apartment towers currently under construction in Milan, Italy. Built to function as city air purifiers, these lush apartments will include over 900 trees, 5,000 bushes, and 11,000 plants throughout the tower balconies. Each perch of life will aid in reducing city noise, moderating atmospheric temperatures, absorbing CO2 emissions, and acting as an energy sustainer for seasonal weather shifts. This model will tremendously increase air quality as living expenses will dramatically decrease. Utilities will be relatively low as each ecosystem is generated through natural light and grey-water irrigation and helps to conserve energy throughout each unit. To take this sustainable design to the next level, Boeri plans to implement BioMilano, a project to revitalize the biological space within the entire city of Milan. His vision is to stop expanding the city into rural environments, and instead fuse urban dwellings with agricultural prosperity.

Milan is one of the most polluted cities in the world with benzene-laced air equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. As the metropolis continues to grow, more and more agricultural land and natural habitats are being destroyed. With countries across the globe experiencing their industrial revolution, the importance of maintaining a balanced ecosystem becomes increasingly relevant to the survival of our Earthy humanity. On his company website, Boeri reports that BioMilano is for “metropolitan reforestation that contributes to the regeneration of the environment and urban biodiversity without the implication of expanding the city upon the territory.” The transitional state from concrete jungle to urban biospheres will set the precedence for other major metropolitan cities to embrace the same sustainable ideology.

View from the Porta Nuova parkland.  3d image.  The Vertical Forest.  Boeri Studio
view from the Porta Nuova parkland

Boeri states on his site that in order for these changes to occur, a new agreement needs to be made between the city, the natural world, and the agriculture industry. At the core of BioMilano, 60 publicly owned and abandoned farms around the edge of Milan have been zoned for a new kind of farming that will provide work for the community and produce food for local markets. “BioMilan is a political project which aims to increase the number of businesses which, working together in areas linked to agriculture, forestation and renewable energy, can regenerate the urban economy and provide forms of integration and work for thousands of citizens,” Boeri says of the proposed project.  With a suppressed economy and dense population, Milan will be able to reverse their toxic spiral and establish a thriving yet healthy city economy with Bosco Verticale and BioMilano. As Boeri paves the way for urban restitution, the world anxiously watches as his first building is put into effect. The idea of a vertical forest is not only fascinating and timely, but is also quite necessary for our environmental survival and wellbeing. If Boeri’s Bosco Verticale is a success, we might have just saved our world from hitting that fast-approaching iceberg.

The Vertical Forest, green architecture in Milan, of Boeri Studio
by Javier Toro Caviedes / July 16, 2013

In the Via Gaetano Castillia, north of Milan in Italy, are building two residential towers with its verdant facades. The architects of the project dating from 2007 are architects Stefano Boeri, Gianandrea Barreca and Giovanni La Varra, belonging to Boeri Studio. The project was baptized with the name of Il Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) because it has an area of trees, shrubs and plants, equivalent to 10,000 m2 . To water these plants thousands of giant planters settled in the terraces, it has projected an irrigation system that filters and reuses sewage and stormwater from the buildings. In addition, the towers have facilities for solar and wind energy.

lifting plants. The Vertical Forest, Boeri Studio {Marco Garofalo}

The dense vegetation of the facades, which in summer will decrease the temperature inside the building and that after the fall of leaves in autumn sunlight collected facades. The aim is to create a microclimate and increase moisture and freshness in the building. Plants absorb CO2 , produce oxygen, filter dust from pollution concern Milanese, and protect against noise. In addition, the CO2 from the construction process will be reduced by the CO2 absorbed by the plants, so the long-term balance will be offset.

view from Via Gaetano Castillia, May 2012 {Google Street View}

The Vertical Forest is promoted by the U.S. company Hines, who began developing Spain Diagonal Mar in Barcelona. The apartments range from 60 m2 apartments to duplex penthouses of 495 m2, with a rapid sale prices. The new urban renewal, near Porta Garibaldi Station, it has been called Porta Nuova, and has other residential buildings and commercial offices.But the Italian crisis has taken its toll at Vertical Forest and a few weeks ago the construction company was in receivership. Hines contractor changed, trusting resume work before the end of summer, and the consequent delay in the completion will be delayed until the spring of 2014.


Caracas’ Deserted Bank Tower turned Skyscraper Slum  /  May 7, 2013

It was built for stockbrokers and bankers in their thousand dollar suits to make million dollar deals, but for nearly two decades it has held the less impressive title of the world’s tallest squat. Welcome to the Centro Financiero Confinanzas, more commonly known as the Torre David (the Tower of David) in Caracas, Venezuela, an unfinished skyscraper which has now been colonised by an ad hoc community of over 700 families. Construction of the 45 story high building began in 1990, under the investment of David Brillembourg. He died just three years later of cancer and following the Venezuelan banking crisis of 1994, the government took ‘control’ in 1994. Except very little ‘government control’ prevails here. Within a few years of abandonment, people with no home, searching for a space to exist began venturing into the skeletal concrete structure.

Their ‘rooms with a view’ lacked walls, working electricity, running water, windows, balcony railings and certainly no elevator, yet the new residents settled in as high as the 30th floor. Chilling stories of small children playing too close to the edge and deadly winds gusting through living quarters were a constant reminder of the risks they were taking.

Little by little however, they began crudely patching up the unfinished work that builders left behind. Found or makeshift materials were hauled up countless unlit stairwells to provide basic services and safety measures. They now have running water that reaches up to the 22nd floor. A village-like community began to flourish behind its sleekly designed shell. Grocery stores on every inhabited floor, hairdressers and even a dentist (unlicensed) operate in the Torre David.

Concrete terraces open to dizzying heights have been walled up and fashioned into balconies dotted with satellite dishes. Community leaders have been chosen to seek legalisation for their unusual vertical settlement despite  the concrete behemoth still being a fundamentally unsafe place to live. Hailed even by some as a near utopic society, Torre David has become an unlikely example of  human resourcefulness and self-sufficiency in the face of a government’s incompetence. Raising awareness for the Torre David and the questions it brings forward about urban space and slum territories, is Urban Think Tank, a project founded by a man who’s last name you might remember from the beginning of the article, Alfredo Brillembourg. A relative of David Brillembourg, the late investor behind the Torre David, has stepped forward to call on architects and developers of the world to see the potential for innovation and experimentation in informal settlements. “It doesn’t look good, but it has the seed of a very interesting dream of how to organize life”, says Alfredo, whose ultimate goal is to see urban architectural design helping to create a more sustainable future.

[vimeo=]In 2012, the think tank made a documentary film that premiered and attracted a lot of attention at the Venice Biennale. A book featuring the stunning photography of David Bann and a study of the informal vertical community has also been released this year.

A helipad sits on the roof of the Torre David, where CEO’s leading a gilded lifestyle were supposed to have been dropped off for a day of meetings in their corner office with citywide views. In this skyscraper that was built to be an emblem of Venezuelan entrepreneurial and financial power, 2,500 squatters are now busily creating opportunities for themselves in a micro-economy. Residents claim it’s better than the street and the hillside slums that can be seen in the distance. As much as it’s a symbol of human adaptability however, it is also one of failure– sadly a place that people are calling their home. Still mad at your landlord?



sustainable design, green design, green transportation, bus planter, green roofed bus, bus roots, marco castro cosio, gardening
Fans of the WHO Farm Project and other crazy green bus projects may enjoy Bus Roots, a green roof system designed for buses by Marco Castro Cosio