When the mayor of a city, orders a ban on all vehicles and mandates elementary schools to remain closed for two days, you know you have a pollution problem. Situations like these occur monthly, if not bi-weekly in the northern Italian city of Milan, one of the most polluted cities in Europe. Furthermore, the fact that Milan has the least amount of green space than any other city in Italy, adds to the woes of the pollution. Decades of urbanization have eliminated the trees that help in trapping, scrubbing and filtering toxins in the air. So it comes to no surprise city officials have given the ok to the $83 million project headed by architect, Stefano Boerio, of building the “Bosco Verticale”, two apartment towers completed covered with flora.
The “Bosco Verticale,” which literally means “vertical forest,” is the first in the world of its kind. The 27-story twin apartment buildings, which resemble the classic puzzle game, Jenga, will not only assist in cleaning up Milan’s dirty air, but will also usher in a new commitment to urban biodiversity. The vertical forest will consist of 900 trees, some even up to 30 feet tall, thousands of bushes and plants for a total of 10,000 square meters of forest. In addition, these green giants will not only form their own micro-climates, full of many species of insects and birds, but also filter dust particles, absorb carbon dioxide, consume the grey water of the building and help in climate control during the changing season. Not bad for a city whose toxic air is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
If you think that there might be a chance of a tree plunging stories on the busy street below, think again. Every tree and plant has been tested in various wind turbines to make sure they’re able to resist the winds at 27 stories. Residents in the apartments also do not have to worry about having a green thumb or not. Each tower will have its own management and maintenance team to cure the flora. Of course all of this comes at a fancy price. Lower level apartments of 80 square meters (approximately 861 square feet) start at around $900,000 and a penthouse of 200 square meters (about 2,152 square feet) will cost more than $2.6 million.
The Bosco Verticale is only the beginning of the ambitious development plan of Boerio, “BioMilano,” a master plan that includes low-cost green housing, community kitchen gardens, and the revitalization of abandoned farms on the city’s outskirts. Boerio states, “Milan, like every city in the world, today, is at a crossroads. It can continue growing by eating up agricultural land, woods, natural space, and thus reducing biodiversity and the space available to other species. Or it can choose to become a bio-diverse metropolis, starting with a new agreement between the city, the natural world and agriculture.”