When I first looked at the renderings of Bosco Verticale, a residential building decked out with 900 trees including Oaks, and acres of shrubs, I was like “what! Are they serious?” And apparently they are: the buildings are under construction and soon to be completed.
Bosco Verticale, or Vertical Forest, is a twin tower residential development in the center of Milan, Italy. The buildings are 360 feet (110 m) and 250 feet (76 m) tall. The renderings of the finished project show not a sky scarper with windows and floor plates but a tall planter with trees and shrubs sprouting out of cantilevered balconies. It is not that I am opposed to any effort to marry landscaping and architecture. I do like the facades of Patrick Blanc’s vertical gardens. However, just planting trees on over extended balconies from top to bottom is not what I consider a synthesis of landscaping and architecture.
The designers of the building, Boeri Studio, claim that they are creating a micro-climate that will absorb carbon dioxide and dust particles and would produce oxygen. The foliage will protect residents from solar-radiation and noise pollution, which is expected to improve the quality of living spaces and will also save energy.
Some of these claims are of dubious nature: modern glass curtain walls can often reflect sunlight and you don’t need trees on 30th floor to do that. I am not sure how these hanging gardens will save energy if you need a team of gardeners constantly watering, fertilizing and pruning these terraces of concrete, overgrown with greenery. It may cost more energy to maintain this building than whatever savings in energy the buildings might have.
I read some of the comments posted on Gaurdian and these comments pretty much sum up what I have to say about this building. Some comments include:
- The Towers may look nice from the outside but I’ll bet the apartments would be in total darkness when the shrubs are in leaf.
- It’s a crazy idea. Kids climbing trees, pollen blowing into flats with dead leaves covered with bird droppings, water dripping through balconies, fertilizer everywhere, soil and twigs, and whole dead trees to be disposed of (take them down in the lift?). If you want the countryside go and live in it. Cities are where you go to escape from foliage.
- Save taking the dog down in the elevator I suppose.
- Plants always grow into their wind shadow and these will be very windy locations – leaning into the wind. So it’s likely that after a few years all the symmetrically-drawn trees in the artists’ impression will be leaning in one direction, even if they are regularly pruned.
- The building would look spooky in the winter.
- I wonder if insurers would balk at providing coverage for occupants or adjacent property owners from broken twigs and branches falling off a 30 story building during stormy weather.
I must say that some of the fears expressed by skeptics like me may not come true. However, there is a possibility that this scheme may not work as it is envisioned. I hope in that case the architects have a plan B to salvage the structures.