It’s not finished yet, but I’ve never seen anything like it. It transforms the image of the tower block in my mind. It leads me along tangents like ‘what will they do with the leaves?’ and ‘is this an inside out tree house?’
I love the idea for several reasons:
1. It’s beautiful. It’s like nature breaking back through the concrete of the city and piercing its rigid geometry.
2. It’s completely novel and somewhat EPIC. Nature fights back! Tower block overrun by trees! Leaves everywhere!!!
3. It’s environmentally friendly (if you ignore the huge amounts of energy required to build the thing in the first place… but let’s overlook that). Cities = pollution, trees = oxygen. Therefore tree skyscrapers = cities with better air?
4. Human beings are happier and healthier when in contact with nature. We are more productive, creative and adept at problem solving simply by having plants around us in the workplace (according to a study by Roger Ulrich, PhD of Texas A&M University). We’re simple things. Even if we can only see nature rather than ‘experience’ it, it’s likely to improve lived urban experience in the area. Could working plants into the very architecture of our cities even improve productivity?
I’ll admit it’s eye wateringly expensive at 65 million Euros. But it’s imaginative, evocative, and just so different.
It’s a far cry from the concrete jungles of inner city tower blocks. Looking at them nowadays it’s hard to see how any in practice reflects Le Corbusier’s vision of La Ville Radieuse, The Radiant City; architecture that could change the world for the good, with entire communities living in the sky. It’s painful to think about how wrong that vision turned out to be in practice, with cheap post-war housing in Britain bastardising Corbusier’s high rise designs.
Novel as Boeri’s ‘Vertical Forest’ is, perhaps it draws closer to what Le Corbusier was trying to achieve; bringing green space back into the crowded modern city. Le Corbusier wrote that the key to the ‘radiant’ city was ‘the famous paradox: we must decongest the centres of our cities by increasing their density… we must improve circulation and increase the amount of open space. The paradox could be resolved by building high on a small part of the total ground area’ (La Ville Radieuse, 1933). Instead of using the solution Le Corbusier suggests – bringing inhabitants into the sky to open up green space on the ground – the Vertical Forest releases the green associated with open spaces directly into the expanse of the sky itself.
I can’t wait to see the building when it’s finished. Given ever decreasing space in cities and ever increasing prices on city real estate, it will be interesting to see how many other architects / countries take on equally creative, conceptual and ambitious projects over the next decade.