Trees on Skyscrapers: Re-opening the Debate

Trees on Skyscrapers: Re-opening the Debate

About five years ago, ArchDaily went viral with a piece called Can we please Stop Drawing Trees on Top of Skyscrapers? Through the course of the post, the author points out the vain tendency of ambitious architects to ‘put a tree on it’, to make buildings looks trendy and sustainable. This is a bogus move, however sincere the intentions behind it, because it only works to alleviate our anxieties about the deteriorating environment in the for a fleeting moment. The harsh truth- little, if any, vegetation can withstand the extreme conditions at high altitudes. Moreover, buildings require very specific reinforcements and alterations to be able to act as hosts for  vertical forests- technology that either doesn’t exist, or that has still not be perfected.

Since then, however, several constructions have come up, that might just hold up against this critique. Moreover, architects and botanical artists like WOHA and Patrick Blanc face with the impending doom of earth’s environment, have pushed themselves to achieve the seemingly impossible

Don’t get us wrong, we would rather let forests take over than skyscrapers, but an open minded outlook that looks to solve the pressing issues of environmental degradation and urban island syndrome needs to keep up with the times to arrive at a balanced and foresightful resolution that takes into account the full reality of rampant urbanisation- a phenomenon that doesn’t look like it will stop anytime soon!

So, here are a selection of the lushest buildings in the world, designs that made it out of paper, and host urban forests of their own.

  1. Bosco Verticale

At a height of 111 metres, the Bosco Verticale towers are among the tallest buildings hosting plants. And they have been designed to do it well: with a capacity of around 900 trees. With construction that was completed only a couple of years ago, the towers are doing well so far, but it remains to see how long they will last lush.


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  1. Babylon Hotel, Naman Spa

This unique holiday resort on the Vietnamese coastline has plants climbing inside, outside, and all over it. Designed by Vo Trong Nghia Architects, the green wall provides a sustainable barrier between the inside and the outside, making this private, private resort and spa a true escape.


Images source

Images source

  1. House in Brussels

Green wall pioneering botanical artist Patrick Blanc bestowed the entire rear facade of this Brussels home with a gorgeous living wall that includes a variety of exotic plants. The house was designed by architects Samyn and Partners.


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  1. Cyprus Towers

Ateliers Jean Nouvel designed a section of the Cyprus Towers inside a facade with countless openings- left for plants to grow and spill out of, creating a unique building that will evolve visibly over time.

The 67-metre-high Tower 25 is one of the tallest structures in the Cypriot capital, and includes apartments, offices and shops.




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  1. Flower Tower

This building is part of a Paris housing complex designed by Edouard Francois. Like any other housing block in the world, the building itself is a simple rectangle carved out into practical apartments. One of its best features are the cantilevered balconies that circumnavigate the building, and which the kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms face. But what is truly special about the building is the 380 giant pots which surround the building with a screen of bamboo plants. Bamboo was put there because it grows quickly, and also because it whistles and makes natural musical notes in the breeze.

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Image source

  1. The Aquaquest Learning tower, Vancouver Aquarium

Landscape architect Randy Sharp was behind this 3 m high by 15 m long green wall which houses 7000 individual plants.


  1. Qaui Branley Office Wing

This Beirut building doubles up as an apartment and an art gallery. The stunning vertical garden taking over one side of the building is contrasted with a cantilevered bright-red balcony. Designer Jean Marc Bonfils was inspired by a public garden located next to the building, which is no longer accessible to the public. This way, the public can enjoy the green space even from far away.

qaui branley

  1. Mein Garten Office, Vietnam

Landscaping and horticulture specialist Mein Garten opened base in a previously unfinished and vacant semi-detached house in the Trung Hoà–Nhân Chính area of Hanoi. The landscaper took the chance to do up with office with natural beauty, so anyone who enters, or even encounters the building from outside gets a good idea of the kind of magic they can perform.

Image source

Image source

10. ParkRoyal on Pickering

Perhaps the most instantly recognizable forested building in the world, this gem was designed by WOHA as a rejection of tightly insulated air-conditioned buildings in Singapore that mimic the West while, ultimately being a waste of energy in tropical climates. The layers of green that the building hosts are well landscaped and strikingly beautiful.



That said, sky-scraper forests, which can only take a back seat in priority in terms of function, are not the answer to disappearing forests and desertification. Take, for instance, the limited flora that can withstand harsh urban and altitude conditions- very limited variety. Even as we scramble to find greener and more harmonious ways of building, let us not forget to save and preserve the life sustaining forests that we do have on the ground.




Faustina Johnson

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