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Bosco Verticale: An urban forest grows in Milan

Construction is underway on Stefano Boeri's Bosco Verticale ('Vertical Forest'), twin apartment towers in Milan with cantilevered balconies boasting pollution-trapping, energy-saving lush trees and other vegetation.

Remember the Flower Tower, aka Maison Végetale, a 10-story housing block in Paris with an otherwise unremarkable façade that’s nearly completely enshrouded with 380 potted bamboo plants? Well, get a load of Bosco Verticale (“Vertical Forest”), two similarly green-skinned apartment towers under construction in Milan that blow the Flower Tower right out of the water … or soil, rather.

Ever since architect Stefano Boeri released renderings of the twin tree-clad apartment buildings, the architectural community has been collectively agog over the audacious, arbor-riffic project that, when completed, will be the world’s first ever vertical forest.

However dazzling, Bosco Verticale isn’t simply just for show. In addition to adding eye-catching aesthetic oomph, the buildings’ 900 trees (including oaks and amelanchier) along with a wide variety of shrubs and flora plants, are meant to absorb CO2 and particles from Milan’s fabulous but filthy air, shield radiation, produce both humidity and oxygen, filter noise pollution, and provide energy-saving shade to each of the tower’s individual apartment units. Additionally, the towers will boast wind and solar systems along with extensive greywater recycling systems that will help to irrigate the massive amount of greenery contained on each of the buildings' staggered cantilevered balconies. A team of (ideally) non-acrophobic in-house horticulturists will tend to the trees, the tallest of which will grow to a maximum height of 30 feet.

According to Boeri, if the units of his urban sprawl-busting creation were individual homes on flat terrain, 50,000 square meters of land along with 10,000 square meters of forest would be required. Bosco Verticale, a “project for metropolitan reforestation that contributes to the regeneration of the environment and urban biodiversity without the implication of expanding the city upon the territory,” is just the first step in Boeri’s brilliant, six-part BioMilano scheme to bring green back into the polluted Italian economic capital.

I'm an instant admirer of the project, although some concerns mostly pertaining to fire, wind, maintenance, and umm, allergies, immediately come to mind. Read more about the project over at Stefano Boeri Architetti. The Financial Times also profiles the project — "the most exciting new tower in the world" — in a fantastic article about Europe’s greenery-embedded residential tower movement.

By Matt Hickman