John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The apartment tower would support more than 100 forms of plant-life.
Unless you’re a logging protester or Na'vi, chances are you’re not going to be staying in a tree for a long time. But you could replicate that happy, leafy feeling inside this planned apartment building, which will be overgrown with more than 100 cedars, shrubs, and other plant-life.
The 384-foot tower, called “La Tour des Cedres,” is scheduled to go up in 2017 in Lausanne, Switzerland. Its facade will support nearly 10,000 square feet of greenery, partially obscuring chic apartments with wood decks and ceiling-to-floor windows. The idealistic theory is the vegetation will improve local air quality while regulating the temperature and noise levels inside the units. Whether it’ll help or hinder bird populations is anybody’s guess—birds love trees, but not so much smashing into high-rise windows right next to those trees.
This is the third “vertical forest” designed by Stefano Boeri Architetti, the Italian firm behind “Bosco Verticale,” a pair of tree-enshrined buildings that opened last year in Milan. With “La Tour des Cedres,” Stefano Boeri seems to be making good on dreams of injecting plants into every nook of urban planning. He’s also talked about cleaning up polluted sites using trees and building an “agricultural greenbelt” around Milan to produce local food.
So should the world stand back and applaud this new forest-scraper? A couple years ago, our own Eric Jaffe discussed the pros and cons of such projects, citing arguments made by journalist Tim De Chant. Here were some of the possible downsides:
De Chant's first post gives some practical reasons it won't work to have trees growing on the top floors of tall buildings. (None of these structures has been finished yet, according to De Chant, with Bosco Verticale the closest to completion.) If the wind doesn't get them, De Chant fears the extreme temperatures will. Beyond that, he wonders about the logistical concerns of maintaining a small forest outside its natural habitat. The urban tree advocate in him likes the idea, the student of plant physiology in him has many doubts.
(The American in me, meanwhile, wonders who will be liable the first time a tree falls from the side of a building and lands on, let's say, a lawyer's car.)
But let's suppose the designers of Bosco Verticale (and other vertical forests) have accounted for these concerns from the outset. In his second post, De Chant writes that he still finds the idea a bit gimmicky—"a way to make your building feel sustainable without necessarily being so." He calculates that if you took the estimated $4.25 million that it cost to include trees on the vertical forest, you could restore at least 2,125 acres of horizontal forest. In contrast, the Bosco Verticale will host 2.5 acres.