If you’ve been to the vibrant, bustling city of Milan you’ve surely admired the iconic marble Gothic Duomo with its elegant spires and the flanking Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping center capped with a 19th century glass and steel dome. But did you know there is a whole new city sprouting up across town? In districts like Porta Nuova to the north the urban landscape is changing dramatically as avant-garde skyscrapers designed by superstar architects are going up at a dizzying pace.
Our favorite futuristic architecture there is the Bosco Verticale, or Vertical Forest – comprised of two soaring residential towers whose facades are entirely covered with plants – some 900 trees , 500 scrubs and 11,000 plants grow from balconies on all sides. This is sustainable living at its core – the abundance of greenery helps mitigate smog and produce oxygen, the most efficient and cost effective way to absorb carbon dioxide.
The Vertical Forest also encourages biodiversity, having spawned a habitat of various animal species including 1,600 types of birds and insects since its opening in 2014. On an energy level, the plant life helps moderate temperatures in the building by shading from the sun and blocking harsh winds, at the same time it protects the 400 apartments from dust and noise pollution.
But it doesn’t end there – the buildings are also self-sufficient by using renewable energy from solar panels and filtered waste water to water the plants. The condominium handles the special maintenance and greening operations including the fantastic “Flying Gardeners” who descend from the roof of the buildings once a year to prune and manage the plants, which are constantly controlled by a high-tech digital operation. The colors change with the seasons, just like any garden.
For the architect Stefano Boeri who designed the innovative structures, the project is also a device for limiting the city sprawl as urban dwellers search for greenery – green architecture can be designed vertically, it can be attractive and it can be luxurious as the swoon-worthy posh interiors of these condos prove.
The Vertical Forest is a prototype for a new kind of architecture embracing biodiversity and sustainability. Just outside the buildings in the Porta Nuova district another firm has designed an innovative Biblioteca degli Alberi or Library of Trees – a city park that links the various buildings in the area like a gigantic piazza, crisscrossed with a grid of walking paths. Circular forests composed of different types of trees dot the park, along with dozens of other types of plants, trees and flowers in a contemporary design. Locals can enjoy the park’s amenities like playgrounds, chaise lounges and gazebos with tables and chairs in a self-described Cultural Campus where people can connect, meet, enjoy and educate themselves.
Just steps from the Bosco Verticale you will also find another of the most recent contemporary skyscrapers built in this district, the UniCredit tower designed by Cesar Pelli. This stunning curved tower wins the prize for the tallest building in Italy at 758 feet, thanks the elegant spire on top which makes it easy to spot on Milan’s new skyline.
Today’s Milan is a dynamic city, no longer all about business but a spirited, rejuvenated metropolis with a cool, hip vibe and much to discover in the way of art, history, fashion, trendy cafes and restaurants and modern lifestyles with green spaces. If you haven’t been in the past few years, you’ll find it a changed city overflowing with spirit and optimism.
Milan has a new soul…a new place to discover!