Some years ago, I could often be found in a typical rural area. Although born in a medium size provincial city I grew up to love plants, gardens, maybe even nature as a whole. I like to flatter myself and believe I have some knowledge of plants and gardens.
One day wandering in the lands between the trenches, I enjoyed the lovely field flowers that coloured the watersides in blue, yellow and red. The flowering water borders formed a wonderful spectacle of bright lines in the landscape. In all these years I had never seen this phenomenon before. I mentioned this in a little small talk with a neighbouring farmer. His response was rather sobering. “A bit of a waste”, he said, “it is nice for a month, if you are lucky it doesn’t rain too hard but after that the wind will blow the seeds to a different location and the grasslands will take over”. “It is foolish to believe you can direct wildflowers”.
Apparently, the beautiful flowers were seeded by the local nature conservation group and not by the farmers. I must admit I was disappointed and decided the farmer was just a bit cynical. I loved the flowers.
The farmer proved to be right. The rain diminished the number of flowers within weeks, the next year only a few bright colours could be found in the near of the water sites and the second year the flowers were gone. The attempt of the local nature lovers was just an adorable small step in the rise of our current trend of embracing nature.
Not long ago I visited Milano. As I had a few spare hours I decided to go and search for Il Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest). The architect Stefano Boeri gained absolute stardom with the design and his example was to be copied all over the world. The architecture is seen as a great example of embracing the green concept and a prove of sustainability. Nevertheless, my opinion was set at forehand. Why on earth would we need to plant a forest at an apartment building that high? The disadvantages are crystal clear. Plants, trees and earth (water included) would unnecessarily load the façade with excessive weight which would result in adding a lot of extra steel and concrete.
Keeping the plants alive would consume an enormous amount of water, which would have to be pumped to the higher levels at energy costs. So how on earth could this be sustainable?
Maintenance will be an issue. Who will trim and care the plants at that height? The total costs for a building like this would be enormous and only in reach for a very few, very hip and very rich people. After a while when the trend is over, the building would be abandoned and in decay. If it was up to me in a city like Milano I would go for a park or a nice garden to serve the community or if no alternative, to serve the happy few. The point is that the chance a horizontal park would last over a vertical, is plainly a lot bigger.
My uber driver new the place. He asked me if I bought one of the apartments. Silently I shook my head, no I did not but I was secretly proud he thought I could have. However, I could not and certainly would not. Then the vertical forest showed itself in the windshield. I gazed at the building with amazement. I had to admit it was a lovely building and yes, I liked the idea of the Flying gardeners who are in fact trained alpine arborists. Damned, I loved this green fairytale.
Stefano Boeri made a beautiful illustrated and very convincing book:
a vertical forest, published by Maurizio Corraini, isbn: 9 788875 705411