China explores building massive vertical urban forests to restore their air quality

When Stefano Boeri imagines the future of urban China he sees green, and lots of it. Office blocks, homes and hotels decked from top to toe in a verdant blaze of shrubbery and plant life; a breath of fresh air for metropolises that are choking on a toxic diet of fumes and dust.

Last week, the Italian architect, famed for his tree-clad Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) skyscraper complex in Milan, unveiled plans for a similar project in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing.

The Chinese equivalent – Boeri’s first in Asia – will be composed of two neighbouring towers coated with 23 species of tree and more than 2,500 cascading shrubs. The structures will reportedly house offices, a 247-room luxury hotel, a museum and even a green architecture school, and are currently under construction, set for completion next year.

Artist’s rendering of Liuzhou Forest City.

But Boeri now has even bolder plans for China: to create entire “forest cities” in a country that has become synonymous with environmental degradation and smog. “We have been asked to design an entire city where you don’t only have one tall building but you have 100 or 200 buildings of different sizes, all with trees and plants on the facades,” he says.

If the Nanjing project is a skin graft, Boeri’s blueprints for “forest cities” are more like an organ transplant. The Milan-born architect said his idea was to create a series of sustainable mini-cities that could provide a green roadmap for the future of urban China.

The first such settlement will be located in Luizhou, a mid-sized Chinese city of about 1.5 million residents in the mountainous southern province of Guangxi.

From the Stefano Boeri Architetti website:
Stefano Boeri Architetti (SBA), based in Milan, with offices in Shanghai and Tirana, (called Boeri Studio until 2008) is dedicated since 1993 to the research and practice of architecture and urbanism. Among the most known projects there are: the Vertical Forest in Milan, the General Local Plan of Tirana 2030 in Albania, the Villa Méditerranée in Marseille and the House of the Sea of La Maddalena.

Liuzhou City at ground level.

Stefano Boeri Architetti has provided services for the architectural and urban design for over 20 years, specially on large scale projects and public space renewal. It develops projects and regeneration strategies in complex environments, outlining and supporting synergies between the various stakeholders, public and private entities. Counting on a staff of over 40 co-workers, in the design process SBA collaborates with a wide network of professionals, from engineering consultants and landscape architects, to social scientist specialist, to provide ad hoc solutions over a wide range of territorial and socio-economic contexts. This approach towards collaboration has allowed the studio to spread its practice and to pair with professionals such as Jeremy Rifkin, to develop a concept of urban planning for the third industrial revolution.

Completed in 2014 the Vertical Forest, in Milan, is a new model of sustainable residence in height, with two towers completely covered with more than 700 trees and plants, The Vertical Forest has won numerous international awards, including the High Rise Building Award sponsored by the Museum of Architecture in Frankfurt in 2014 and in 2015 the CTBUH Award, as Best Tall Building Worldwide sponsored by the Council for Tall Building and Urban Habitat and the Illinois Institute of Technology both based in Chicago. After this first sustainable model of housing, the studio recently won a competition, in Lausanne, Switzerland, to further develop this model and build a new 117 meters tall residential tower, which will host more than 100 ce- dar trees and will be covered by shrubs and plants over an area of 3.000 sqm; this construction is scheduled to start in 2017.

All images courtesy of Stefano Boeri Architetti.

See full article by Tom Phillips in Guardian Cities.

See Stefano Boeri Architetti website.

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