Italian “Vertical Forest” Wins International Highrise Award 2014

Every two years since 2004, the International Highrise Award (IHA) has been awarded to the world’s most innovative highrise design. This past November, the prestigious international award was bestowed again for the 6th time in history.


The ‘Vertical Forest’. Image via Art Tribune.

The 2014 International Highrise Award

The IHA, jointly initiated in 2003 by the City of Frankfurt, the German Architecture Museum, and DekaBank, is assigned to buildings higher than 100 meters (328 ft), which combine “exemplary sustainability, external shape and internal spatial quality, not to mention social aspects, to create a model design”. This time around, the accolade was assigned to the two Italian residential buildings called ‘Bosco Verticale’, that translated in English means ‘Vertical Forest‘, and represents a magnificent example of building sustainability and integrated design.

The 2014 IHA’s jury panel praised the design, stating: “Bosco Verticale is a marvelous project! It’s an expression of the extensive human need for green. The “wooded highrises” are a striking example of a symbiosis of architecture and nature”. Christoph Ingenhoven, the jury Chairman and world famous, ecologically oriented architect, commended the design: “The Vertical Forest is an expression of the human need for contact with nature. It is a radical and daring idea for the cities of tomorrow, and without a doubt represents a model for the development of densely populated urban areas in other European countries.”

 The Vertical Forest

The Vertical Forest was designed by the famous Italian architects Stefano Boeri, Gianandrea Barreca, and Giovanni La Varra, who are known for researching and practicing contemporary architecture and urbanism, with a focus on biodiversity and sustainable design. Started four years ago, in 2010 and completed last October, the Vertical Forest project attracted great interest since the beginning, with the Financial Times describing it back in 2011 as “the most exciting tower in the world”.


Vertical Forest Terraces. Image via Architecture Lab.

The Vertical Forest, comprised of two residential towers, 110 meters (26 floors) and 87 meters (18 floors) high respectively, has been designed as part of the rehabilitation of the historic Porta Nuova district in Milan. What makes these buildings unique, as shown in the images, is that plants and trees are grown on every terrace, exactly as you’d image a vertical forest to be like. The towers’ 8,900 square meters of terraces host more than 750 trees (3 to 6 meters high) and a variety of plants, including more than 5,000 shrubs and 11,000 perennials and groundcovers. The collaboration between architects, botanists and engineers was a key element in the design as it helped to guarantee the plants’ lifespans and improve the building overall.

Vertical Forest’s Sustainability Aspects

The Boeri orientation toward sustainability is eminent even in the towers’ facilities, which are equipped with the best available “green” technologies, such as water reclamation, and the highest energy efficiency standards. Moreover, in order to minimize the energy demand, the towers are equipped with solar panels, and wind and geothermal systems. Thanks to Boeri’s expertise in “green architecture” and smart appliances, the building was designed to meet all the new environmental guidelines even before planting the trees.

Even more outstanding are the benefits that the designers have been able to generate using the trees. In facts, the trees not only mitigate smog and produce oxygen, but they also play a key role in energy savings, by mitigating high temperatures. Having the presence of so many trees improves the quality of life of the lucky residents of the 111 apartments, as they attenuate the noise levels and provide an amazing view.

Stefano Boeri said: “I am glad because the prize to the Bosco Verticale is a recognition to experimentation in architecture; it is an invitation to think about architecture as an anticipation of the future for everyone – and not just as the emergence of a style or language”. His experimentation has been a recognized worldwide success, and without a doubt it will become a source of inspiration and a model to follow for many designers yet to come.

About The Author

Adriano Pilloni
Adriano, 25 years old, is a Master Graduate in Environmental Economics and Development from Rome Three University (Italy). During his education he developed a deep knowledge on Economics and a keen interest on Economic Theory with particular regard to energy markets, sustainability, environmental and agricultural issues. He has been proactive during his university time doing many projects and being elected by the students as Advisor of the Economics Dept. of his University. With two other students he developed a project on Food Sustainability which has been selected in the top 30 of the international Barilla contest "BCFN YES! 2013". He did the 2014 European edition of Extreme Blue, IBM's premier internship program for both graduate and undergraduate students. Now he is working as Junior Power and Gas Analyst at GDF SUEZ Italy.