This morning I saw a tweet that said ” World’s First Vertical Forest – Bosco Verticale http://t.co/GWuwoBFD ”.
I followed up on this article and came across a lot of other sites that claimed the same thing. Stefano Boeri’s Bosco Vertical is also reported by Inhabitat to be the world’s first “vertical Forest”. They refer to other green tower projects from Boeri like this one to be build in Astana Kazahkistan.
Now, I’m not an architect, nor an architecture critic, however I do know that there’s a long history of utopian plans to intertwine plants, trees, organic, natural elements with living spaces. And the concept of the vertical garden goes back to the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon - supposedly to have been located near the now ruined city of Baghdad some 4000 years ago. It is unclear what they must have looked like, even if they have existed at all, but there is great variety in historical and phantastical impressions. There is even one that looks like the Tower of Babel by Pieter Breughel overgrown.
Another, later, example that comes to mind is an often cited cartoon by A.B Walker that appeared in Life Magazine in 1909. Koolhaas used the image, and the concept behind it, to illustrate the birth of the idea of stacking “worlds” in his book Delirious New York, after which it became an icon of Manhattanism. More background on the cartoon here.
The early utopian vison of high-rise in the cartoon seems based on the idea of elevating the then ubiquitous pastoral, agricultural typology. The cartoon served not only as an inspiration for Koolhaas’s retroactive Manifesto, but also for a legion of other architects and planners. In their proposal for a high rise New York firm Site
took the idea quite literally.
In the work of MVDRV, who are influenced by Koolhaas ideas, both the ideas of the 1909 Theorem (as Koolhaas called it) and the idea of integrating and rearranging “green” elements with living and working functions appear can be found. The stacking and layering of functions and typologies can be seen in their design for the Gwanggyo Ciry Centre Competition for a complete new city in South Korea. The influence of the theorem is evident in their design for the Dutch Hannover World Fair pavillion in 2000.
Many more examples, full of influences from the Hanging Garden and the 1909 Theorem (or from other architects that were influenced) can be seen on this page dedicated to eco friendly buildings of the future. This is Singapore’s Ecological EDITT Tower by Hamzah and Yeang that is (still?) under construction.
Inhabitat’s own site is also crammed with examples of eco-friendly high-rises that you could call vertical forests or gardens. Like Mad’s architects Urban Forest Skyscraper for China below. The website claims that the design is inspired by Chinese Landscapes and traditional villages built into hillsides. Neither Koolhaas, Babylon, nor A.B. Walkers cartoon are mentioned, nor are the dozens of other architects that did similar work. The paradigm of the stacked, vertical garden seems omnipresent, with many architects and clients claiming that their designs and plans are new, innovative and groundbreaking. I think it would be good if architects refer to other buildings and designers that influenced them and not only tell us the fairlytales that they told the clients in order to make them feel special (“This project is unique…” “It was inspired by…”). It’s like an Oscar Winning actor thanking family and God. I also think architecture critics should have a longer memory and should point out to the public from which sources the so called “creative ideas” originated. It is their job to dig deeper than most of us, especially in a twitter culture where references are left out and where claims like “the first..” are re-tweeted and start living a life of their own.