We The Italians | Italian design: Megacites of the future, Stefano Boeri has a vision on how they should look like

Italian design: Megacites of the future, Stefano Boeri has a vision on how they should look like

Italian design: Megacites of the future, Stefano Boeri has a vision on how they should look like

  • WTI Magazine #120 Oct 19, 2019
  • 316

UN estimated that every week, 1.5 million people move from urban areas to a city. To give you an idea of the impact this trend has, Milan (Italy) has 1.3 million inhabitants (Istat, 2017).

The assumption that follows is that by 2030 there will be 43 megacities in the world. A megacity is a single metropolitan area, although it can refer to two or three areas that converge; and usually, more than 10 million people live in these cities. We are all familiar with the type of conflicts the coexistence of so many people can create, but also with all the other challenges related to pollution, sustainability housing, gentrification, to mention some.  

Megacities might be a delicate terrain of conflicts. The reality is that they are vibrant and innovative labs, where challenges turn into opportunities and a perfect scenario to test the latest technologies. When managing these megacities is crucial to involve, at the same time, key sectors. As we know, conflicts and solutions are always interwoven. While we are aware that technology is embedded in our lives; we have also learned that it is not yet the solution to every aspect of our lives. 

Megacities will become a sustainable living place, only if we drive their transformation into Smart Cities. One of the studies, about the meaning and conceptualisation of a Smart City, has shown that three dimensions must be taken into consideration to succeed: technology, people and institutions. 

The technological dimension refers to infrastructures, smart, mobile and virtual technologies, digital networks- a Smart City must be digital, wired and hybrid. The human dimension refers to the social capital, where creativity, learning processes and knowledge are crucial elements and the core education, way of working and making business. The institutional dimension refers to governance, policy and regulations that should support the creation of smart communities and smart growth. 

Stefano Boeri, an Italian architect and urban planner, has in mind the problems related to megacities. He has studied the impact they caused on the environment: cities consume 75% of world’s natural resources and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emission.  

Boeri became worldwide famous in 2014 upon completion of the Bosco VerticaleVertical Forest, what it could be considered his masterpiece. The project is not only candy for the eyes; it is a magnificent structure, so innovative in the way the trees seem to fit so naturally in a vertical structure. Moreover, this project is a deep and profound investigation of how using nature as a muse. This way of building can improve several problems connected to sustainability, the quality of our air, the temperature of our cities and the list goes on.  

With this project, Boeri and his team have done something innovative that goes beyond understanding how to put and keep alive a fully grown tree on a building. Boeri is challenging governments, institutions, architects and everyone involved in the planning of a city, to rethink how nature can be part of every project.

Boeri and his studio keep investigating this type of approach to architecture and city planning. And since the Vertical Forest, they have work in several other projects. The Green Cathedral was a proposal for the new building of the Inholland University of Applied Sciences in the Sluisbuurt on Zeeburgereiland in Amsterdam (The Netherlands). In this occasion, the project did not win the tender, however, this trailblazer team is showing to the world how cities could look in a not far away future. 

Two were the cornerstones projects:  

- Flexibility of spaces a very central characteristic of the life of urban dwellers. The interiors of the university could be altered depending on the need and the number of students attending in specific moments;

- Sustainability of the building. Setting up circular management of not only the environmental resources but also the economic one. 

Boeri is pushing the boundaries of classical architecture and bringing the conversation of sustainable building, planning and development to a dimension that was not taken, yet, into consideration: the vision of metropolis. A reminder that when a design is capable of combining beauty, functionality and purpose, the results will be long-lasting. The Vertical Forest is an example of this: as it has been considered one of the contemporary wonders of architecture.

This model has been exported to other cities facing unsustainable growth. At the moment a Vertical Forest is planned to be build in Cairo (Egypt); the structure comprises one hotel and two apartment blocks. It will host 350 trees, more than 14.000 shrubs and perennials belonging to 100 different species. These plants will form 3 vertical forests, energetically self-sufficient and that will absorb about 7 tons of carbon dioxide in of year while producing 8 tons of oxygen in a city of 9,5 million inhabitants. The constructions of the building will start in 2020. It is part of a more comprehensive project which aim is to transform Caito in a greener city. Making it the first Northern-African city to face an ecological reconversion, to face climate change and by doing so making it more livable.   

Boeri and his studio are showing us a different approach to architecture. More important, they are showing us that challenges can be tackled from every industry and area of knowledge. Making each one of us responsible for contributing to making our cities a better place to live.