The Vertical Forest

Social media gets a bad rap. By some accounts it is nothing more than a toxic vortex, a black hole into which is disappearing the best years of our lives. Any time spent on Facebook looking at some vague acquaintance’s carefully staged skiing photographs is time you’ll never get back. Time that would be better spent doing anything, lagging the pipes in the attic or emptying the septic tank.

Which is where Twitter, in my view, has the edge. Twitter has the great advantage of being able to give you back control. You decide who to follow, whose content to expose yourself to. Pay attention to those you find interesting, entertaining or stimulating and ignore those you don’t. Simple as that.

And essentially what that means is that you can soak up several information streams, of your own choosing, simultaneously which can quite often throw up items of real interest.

Thus it was on one of those anonymous post- Christmas but pre-New Year days, that wide open bland prairie of time when abject boredom has set in and you are on the verge of attempting to eat your own foot for entertainment. It is on days like this that Twitter becomes a trusty companion.

Sabatino Urzo is an Italian, from Milan. He currently lives in London where he works as the Trials Manager for the Royal Horticulture Society. For people like myself who are interested in plants, new plant species, new hybrids and all that jazz, his Twitter feed is quite interesting.

Over Christmas Sabatino, seemingly mired in the same trough of boredom as the rest of us, was particularly prolific distributing some smashing insights on happy gardens, green roofs, the 6000-year history of the Pinus sylvestris and something which I paid particular attention to, the growing symbiosis between architecture and plants in his home city of Milan.

We are all familiar with the global profile enjoyed by Milan in the world of fashion but now seemingly cutting edge eco design, organic architecture and super green buildings are coming to the fore in a city which is in a particularly interesting state of transition between old and new.

Stefano Boeri’s Bosco Verticale or Vertical Forest will be a world heritage site someday. It is an extraordinary achievement, a pair of residential towers in which is married the twin imperatives of providing state of the art high density living accommodation and the need for carbon neutrality. From a design point of view, it is unlike anything we have seen before.

The ‘Vertical Forest’ Towers, Milan


Officially opened in October 2014 in the Porta Nuova district the towers have heights of 110 metres and 76 metres and host 900 trees and in excess of 2000 smaller plants; shrubs, grasses and flowering herbaceous perennials, all distributed appropriately in relation to the façade’s position relative to the changing sun.

On flat land, the trees alone in each Vertical Forest would cover an area of 7000 square metres. In terms of urban density, if the accommodation provided by the two towers was in the traditional single-family dwelling format it would necessitate an area of 19 acres. The vegetal system of the Vertical Forest aids in the construction of a microclimate, produces humidity, absorbs carbon dioxide and dust particles and produces oxygen. The living façade means the exterior is constantly evolving, changing colours with the seasons and offering ever-changing views of the cityscape.

Trees are clearly the key element and the types of trees were carefully chosen to suit their positioning on the facades in relation to height and spread. The plants were grown specifically for the project and over the preparatory period were acclimated to conditions which they would experience in their permanent positions on the building.

Vision, planning and design of this standard is possible in Ireland. There has never been a greater need for high density, nor has there ever been a greater need for carbon neutrality in new developments.

If not now, for God’s sake, when?

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