It’s no secret that China has serious problems with air pollution. In December last year, the situation in the capital Bejing became so bad it halted everyday life: schools were closed, planes grounded and cars banned from the roads. In a radical move to fight the issue, Chinese urban developers are envisioning forest cities where offices, hotels and residential buildings are covered in a blaze of plant life. The first step is underway in Nanjing, the capital of China’s eastern Jiangsu province: the Nanjing Towers.
Once completed in 2018, the towers will be Asia’s first vertical forest. The taller of the two towers will reach a height of 200 metres and house a rooftop club, offices, a museum and even a green architecture bureau. The other tower will house a 247-room Hyatt hotel. The towers will host over 1000 trees and about 2500 shrubs from over 23 local species, good for a production of 60 kg of oxygen every day and absorption of 25 tons of carbon every year.
The towers are designed by Italian architect Stefano Boeri, who made name with his Bosco Verticale. The project brought biodiversity back in the heart of Milan since 2015, with two towers being home to trees and plants equivalent to one hectare of forest. Next to oxygen and air filtration, trees and plants provide shading and a wealth of colours that change throughout the year.
Boeri is not naive and is aware that two towers are not going to solve China’s air pollution problem. “Two towers in a huge urban environment [such as Nanjing] is so, so small a contribution – but it is an example. We hope that this model of green architecture can be repeated and copied and replicated”, he told the Guardian.
And the transition towards greener cities is already on the way. Together with his team, he is seriously working on the concept of whole forest cities. On his website, concept designs for a forest city of 100 000 inhabitants are disclosed, calling it a city of a new generation, capable of becoming a model of sustainable growth. Such a city could be built as soon as 2020.
Together with smart and clean transport systems, urban farming techniques and renewable energy technology, the concept of vertical forests can help make cities around the world again the place to be.