The World's First Vertical Forest
Most people will agree that we need to take better care of the earth. After all, it's our support system and our source for everything--it allows us to survive, it feeds and clothes us. As it is though, society is based more on monetary gain than on sustainable living and architecture. We've gotten lost in things that don't matter and it seems we've forgotten about what does.
There are ancient stories in Hindu scripture (and the Bible, and others) that speak of a world in the past where humans, nature, and the planet all lived in perfect harmony. That is, of course, until it was sullied by that famous vice, greed. Or, as The Crystal Method puts it, "Another world, another time--in the age of wonder, this land was green and good--until the crystal cracked!"
But there's a growing movement in the West that realizes we need to form sustainable communities and get back to green living and green architecture. Humans are part of nature, not separate entities looking at it from a distance.
We're more aware now than ever that greed can't work long-term, and certainly not as the basis of an entire society. You need only look to the Occupy Wall Street movements sweeping the globe to realize everyone's ready for a change.
This is one man's vision of how to move forward from here. Only, unlike most of these stories, he's actually building it instead of just blabbing about it. It's time to explore the world of Stefano Boeri and his futuristic vision of urban architecture.
Making a case for an architecture that not only focuses on technological solutions, but also tries to reconcile man and nature.
Forests In The Sky
There's always been something innately attractive to me about merging nature with dwelling spaces. The first time I saw this I thought it was one of the coolest architectural feats ever: up there with Frank Lloyd Wright's falling water house or Philip Johnson's glass house.
Forests in the sky, towering up amongst the eyesore skyscrapers of glinting glass and steel. But what's even cooler is that they're apartments! Yup; this isn't just a forest in the sky, but a functional dwelling space as well.
Each apartment / flat has a range of trees planted on the balcony, filtering dust and sunlight, curbing noise pollution, protecting against radiation, and providing shelter from the wind. Of course the added benefit is that trees inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen, cleaning the air we breathe.
Fusing Nature With Architecture
Much like Ebenezer Howard, creator of the world's first "Garden City," Stefano Boeri sees the potential to create more pleasing urban environments by fusing nature with architecture. Howard had "imagined a community that enjoyed the best of town and country: A garden for every house and a walk through fields for workers heading to factory jobs." And for the most part, this was successful. 108 years later, Stefano Boeri is planning what he calls "BioMilano." BioMilano will be a "green belt" around the city of Milan formed by 60 abandoned farms that will be made functional again.
Each tower will contain roughly 550 shrubs and trees between 3-6 meters in height. Boeri had this to say about his two towering 27-story apartment blocks complete with full vertical forest: "Such a metamorphosis adds only 5% to construction costs. It is a necessary response to the sprawl of the modern city. If the units were individual houses, it would require 50,000 sq miles (129,500 sq kilometers) of land, and 10,000 sq miles (25,900 sq kilometers) of woodland."
Plants and trees will be bountiful and varied, and greywater produced by the apartment block will be used to water them. The towers of plantlife will filter the city air, scrub CO2, and release oxygen for us to breathe. The apartment blocks will be heated by geothermal energy, solar panels will be placed in the sunniest spots, and the roofs will be covered in wind turbines.
It's not a crazy idea, but a fantastic one. We need to return back to nature, and this can easily be done even within the city's confines, thanks to inventive architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, Philip Johnson, and Stefano Boeri.
In the meantime, we can do our part to restore some life to the city. Planting even a small porch or deck garden will help filter the air, and indoor plants will do the same for your living space. If we all pitch in, perhaps a city concept like BioMilano will become the norm!
© 2011 Kate P