High-Rise Landscapes


Building architects are continuing to incorporate more green into their skyscraper proposals, adding trees to rooftops, terraces or balconies high in the sky. In fact, the sustainability trend was only envisioned numerous times on paper until this year, when forests will officially be reaching new heights in Milan. At the end of this year, Bosco Verticale will open.

The new skyscraper promises to bring hundreds of new homes, but instead of cold glass and steel, the surface will ripple with organic life.


Made of two towers that are approximately 262 feet high and 367 feet high, Bosco Verticale is currently being planted with 730 specially cultivated trees, 11,000 groundcover plants and 5,000 shrubs.

Jill Fehrenbacher, editor of Inhabitat and a follower of architecture trends, says proposals for buildings featuring abundant vegetation are common, but they haven’t gone beyond that stage. “I have yet to see very many of these ‘living building’ designs become reality, which is why the Bosco Verticale is such a big deal,” she points out.


The plant materials’ biggest challenge at this elevation will be wind, in addition to some extreme hot and cold temperatures. Think about trees near mountaintops with trunks that bow away from prevailing winds. Species chosen for Bosco Verticale went through wind-resistance tests and require a lightweight substrate in order to meet plants’ nutritional demands. Regular pruning will ensure trees don’t interrupt tenants’ views.

While some are still skeptical that these types of buildings and the maintenance involved can be sustained, one can’t ignore the benefits the buildings can provide if successful. These include absorbing dust in the air and creating a micro-climate in order to filter out sunlight.

“Living plants clean the air and produce oxygen, they help humidify indoor air, they reduce stormwater runoff and urban heat island effect, and they help insulate a building,” Fehrenbacher says. “All of those trees and plants are going to be beneficial to the building occupants, neighbors and local environment.”

Nicole Wisniewski