‘We have brought swallows into Milan’, says the inventor of the vertical forest (inspired by Calvino)


From Climate Home News:

Close to the railway station of Porta Garibaldi in Milan stand two buildings that, for a while, were unique in the world.

It has been said that they can be seen as “a house for trees inhabited by people”. The exterior facades feature a total of 21,000 plants, including 800 full size trees.

Recently appointed as president of the Milan Triennale art and design museum, professor Stefano Boeri, is the architect who invented and managed the construction of the “vertical forest”. which was first realised in the 26 and 18-floor skyscrapers in the new business centre of Milan. 

CHN: Professor Boeri, how did you come up with the idea of lining skyscrapers with trees?

SB: The idea came from afar; perhaps I first envisioned it when, at the age of 13, I read “The Baron in the Trees” by Italo Calvino: the story of a young nobleman who, by choice, decides to move into a tree and there spend his entire life. Since then, obviously, there were a lot of other hints, but what impressed me most, has been the in-depth study on how big cities in the world rapidly expand, with terrible implications on our environment.

Can you give us some numbers?

Megalopolises grow at impressive speed. To give you an example, Beijing, with its suburbs, has now reached 103 million inhabitants. Cities occupy only 2% of our planet’s land mass but account for 75% of the production of carbon dioxide pollution, the main cause of climate change.

Do you see a way for combating this phenomenon?

Plants are the best defence against these polluting factors. They ingest carbon dioxide through the process of photosynthesis and absorb thin powders and pollutants. Starting from these considerations, I came up with the idea of planting an arboretum in the centre of a large and populated city. My two vertical forest buildings occupy 1,500sq m of ground and host 21,000 plants. If the same number of living trees were to be planted on a flat surface, it would take an area of at least 30,000sq m.

Continues here. Stefano has also imagined building them in domes on Mars.