Until recently, Milan – the second-biggest city and the commercial capital of Italy – was hailed as ‘grey’ and dull. However, thanks to the creativity of some designers and architects, the city is reinventing itself to include more ‘greens’ like plant-covered buildings, rooftop gardens and innovative parks.
New look for an old city
Much of this new look can be experienced in the Isola (Island) district. The area has a high percentage of offices, a vibrant nightlife, a great number of quality artisan enterprises and cultural associations, besides a mixed residential urban fabric comprising different ethnic and social components. However, the highlight of the renovation is the new expansion of the Garibaldi-Repubblica area that includes a vast scheme of green spaces and pedestrian areas.
The nearby Porta Nuova district is where the focus of greening Milan can be seen. Take for instance the Bosco Verticale or Vertical Forest towers. Designed by Boeri Studio and officially opened in 2014, the twin towers reach heights of up to 110 metres and 76 metres, respectively, and host 900 trees (each measuring three, six or nine metres) and over 2,000 plants from a wide range of shrubs and floral plants distributed in relation to the facade’s position towards the sun.
On flat land, each vertical forest equals, in terms of trees, an area of 7,000 sq.m of forest. The vegetal system of the vertical forest aids in the construction of a microclimate, produces humidity, absorbs CO2 and dust particles and produces O2. Also, the living facade means the exterior is constantly evolving, changing colours with the seasons and offering residents an ever-changing view of the cityscape.
The trees library
Milan’s third largest green lung is the Biblioteca degli Alberi (Trees Library). Covering an area of 95,000 sq m, circular forests will be scattered all over the site, eventually growing into spectacular natural rooms of different coloured foliage. As per Petra Blaise, the Dutch designer behind the project, these forests represent ‘vegetal pavillions’. When the project gets completed, the area will become Milan’s largest pedestrian region.
Elsewhere in Milan, a group of architects and engineers have turned the rooftop of their studio into a beautiful garden in the elegant Brera district. As part of the project called Orto fra I Cortili, the roof of the building has been converted into a permanent vegetable garden and an “open air pharmacy,” redeveloping the building also from an energy and functional perspective.
Words: Trudie Carter