As I was leisurely browsing the Internet on a bus ride home, I stumbled upon an article (found here) about a vertical forest being built in Nanjing, China. As a structural engineer, my first thought was how? How are they (they being the structural engineers) able to accommodate that amount of weight? How large are the plants going to be? How much would it cost to build something of this magnitude?
As I read the article, I only found myself asking more questions. I decided to do some more research on the topic and found that vertical forests, like the Nanjing Towers, exist all over the world. In Milan, Italy, the Bosco Vertical (more information here) is a residential building that incorporates nature (more than 900 trees to be exact) into its design. The trees produce oxygen, help eliminate smog, aid in the temperature regulation of the building, and reduce noise from the surrounding city. The Italian architect who designed this complex, Stefano Boeri, also designed the Nanjing Towers. Additionally, Stefano Boeri has other vertical forest designs being built in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Generally, these vertical forest buildings are residential. After conducting research on these buildings, and having sufficiently answered my initial questions, I was lead to one last question; what if we created a vertical forest that was non-residential? If instead of building a residential structure we used the allotted space for a structure filled entirely with plants, we would have an amazing green space that was easily accessible for everyone in/around the city. The structure would serve as a multi-level park, with the possibility to have different themes on each level of the structure.
Giving this type of building more thought has lead me to a preliminary design that includes railing around the perimeter of the building instead of walls. Additionally, this building would only utilize stairs as a way to go between floors, instead of the traditional elevator. This space would serve as a way for the community to explore nature and get exercise on a daily basis. Because the nature would exist in a building, with open walls, people would be more likely to visit the space on rainy days than they would be to go to a traditional park. Lastly, placing a structure like this in the middle of a busy city would help improve the air quality greatly. The residential Nanjing Towers in China will be producing around 132 pounds of oxygen per day. It is my opinion that we need more ways for people living in cities to enjoy nature, and I think a building with different parks inside would serve as a great solution to this issue.