Not mere high-rises, Bosco Verticale, or the Vertical Forest, is an experimental prototype, an urban structure conceived to achieve symbiosis between architecture and nature. Designed by Boeri Studio and inaugurated last November in Milan’s Porta Nuova Isola quarter, the Vertical Forest aims to be a new urban model: on the one hand a viable alternative to low density urban sprawl, and on the other, a deliberate attempt to “demineralised” the city by introducing pockets of trees and plants. The programme comprises two towers of 80 and 112 metres planted with 480 large and medium sized trees, 300 small trees, 11,000 perennial and groundcover plants and 5,000 bushes for a total of 20,000 m2 of woodland and undergrowth concentrated in a city surface area of 4,000 m2.
The experiment of returning nature to the city was possible thanks to the full backing of the clients - investment firm Hines Italia and real estate management company COIMA - that were prepared to take the investment risk. The scheme also required the involvement of biologists, ethologists, engineers and technical plant installers.
Although a prototype, the Vertical Forest stands comfortably in Milan’s urban context. The two green towers mediate between the soaring new skyscrapers of the Porta Nuova district and the intricate weave of streets that make up the adjacent Isola quarter. They serve to reconnect two sections of the city not only physically but also on the social plane.
The seamless permeability created between the high rises of the new Piazza Gae Aulenti and the compact traditional urban fabric of the Isola quarter has been achieved by elevating the new piazza, placing the busy through-roads underground, and creating a series of cycle and pedestrian pathways.
Curated by COIMA Image and Dolce Via Homes, the entrances and interior decor of the tower apartments underline the theme of openness towards the city. High entrance halls are paved with burnished green fossil limestone, a colour echoed by the Cor-ten steel reception desk to create a continuum with the landscaped grounds outside and the vertical forest above.
In terms of social relations, the inevitable conflict situations that arose during the far-reaching transformation of this quarter of Milan were managed by directly involving local citizens. The Casa della Memoria and La Stecca, housing local associations and small business and craft activities, were both developed as part of a process of discussion and joint decision-making.
Winner of the International Highrise Award, Vertical Forest’s success lies in the fact that it can be adapted to China as much as to Milan, to a new, but also to an existing building, remaining the same but ever-changing to fit in with the natural features of each context.