Saturday, 31 May 2014

Trees in the air 3: you can see the forest!

Bosco Verticale Milan
I reported a year ago on early news of the Bosco Verticale project in Milan, by Italian architect Stefano Boeri.  At the time, it was tempting to be dismissive of what appeared to be just another architectural rendering with gratuitous vegetation, and my blog post put more emphasis on Tim De Chant's cririque, unfavourably comparing the idea to the preservation of 'real' forest.

It’s hard to be cynical now that the project is nearing completion, and the vertical forest already has a compelling presence in its neighbourhood.  As seen in Dezeen's extensive coverage, the aerial forest looks lush and healthy.

The irresistible to comparison is between the approach taken by the Italian building, and the Jean Nouvelle building Central Park One in Sydney, sporting what has been dubbed the world’s biggest vertical garden, by the French botanist Patrick Blanc.

One Central Park Sydney
I am no botanist, but to me the Italian job looks far more convincing.  Robust in scale and based on conventional technology with different sized plants growing in different sized pots, the landscape is accommodated in an appropriately varied pattern of placement of the cantilever verandas.  The Italian towers create a complex variation in the facades, with the interplay between vegetation, concrete and glass elements defining a zone of heavily planted private open space.  In comparison, the Sydney facades are a mere veneer, in a bespoke, thin growing medium; a glass curtain wall with leafy fuzz.

So, provisionally, I eat humble pie.  I suspect the Bosco Verticale will demonstrate that you can put trees in the air, as well as keep forests on the ground.  Let's face it, the project is high rise, and relatively high density urban living.  It might well show, conclusively, that it is far more pleasant to look out of your apartment at your own, and others' greenery, than the panopticon of giant TV screen-like windows more usually associated with emerging high rise cityscapes, especially in Asia.

I just hope the residents keep watering those pots, and not too many kids get bitten by rabid squirrels.

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