Not all architecture incorporating lots of living greenery is doomed to remain an unrealistic rendering, depicting buildings that can’t structurally support the weight of all the soil and water needed to keep full-sized trees alive. Architect Thomas Heatherwick built ultra-strong concrete pillars into his 1000 Trees design, for example. Other buildings take a subtler approach, choosing ivy, potted plants or existing trees rooted in the ground. All of these projects attempt to meld urban architecture with lush gardens in the hopes of cleansing the air, storing CO2 to mitigate climate change and providing enhanced access to green spaces in cities.
Valley: Green-Terraced Towers by MVRDV in Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Construction began in August 2017 on MVRDV’s ambitious ‘Valley,’ a mixed-use complex of green-terraced towers in Amsterdam’s central business district. ‘Valley’ is notable not only for its unusual offset stacking of volumes , creating an irregular shape, but also for all the greenery it supports. The towers include 196 apartments, 7 stories of offices, shops, restaurants, cultural facilities and a three-story parking lot.
House for Trees by VTN Architects in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
VTN Architects approached ‘House for Trees’ as a way to alleviate the lack of access to green spaces as well as poor air quality found in big cities like Ho Chi Minh. This residential project incorporates trees into its design, envisioned by the firm as a “small park in a dense neighborhood.” The trees are set into deep planter boxes disguised among the concrete volumes of the house, with cut-outs allowing their crowns to rise as high as they like.
Nautilus Eco Resort by Vincent Callebaut in the Philippines
The Nautilus Eco Resort by Vincent Callebaut is designed as a ‘zero emissions, zero waste, zero poverty’ development for the Philippines in response to environmental and social problems in the country, like overfishing, pollution and mass tourism. The project would be built from reused or recycled materials, self-sufficient in producing its own energy and food, and engage volunteer ecotourists in cleaning up plastic waste that washes up onto the area’s beaches. It consists of a series of shell-shaped hotels and apartment towers spiraling around a central island housing a nautical center and scientific research laboratories. The plant walls cool the buildings as they grow food.
Amata + Triptyque Timber Building in São Paulo, Brazil
Constructed entirely from Brazilian timber, this building is a collaboration between architecture studio Triptyque and forest management company Amata. The building aims to be a giant carbon sink, contributing towards the fight against climate change. Each square meter of wood is capable of absorbing a metric ton of carbon dioxide from the environment. The 13-story building contains co-working, co-living and dining spaces, the edges of its terraces dripping with living plants.