Two Trees Management announced the official reopening of The Refinery at Domino Sugar, one of Brooklyn’s most iconic buildings transformed into a modern workspace. The design of the adaptive reuse project, led by Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) began in 2017 with the purpose of reimagining the monument to become a point of connection between the existing neighborhood and the recaptured waterfront. The building now features 15 stories of office space, approximately 460,000 square feet, complete with retail spaces, communal workspaces, a private club, and event spaces.
Vertical Gardens: The Latest Architecture and News
If ancient Hellenic sources are to be believed, hanging gardens have existed at least since antiquity when the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon were described by writers such as Herodotus and Philo of Byzantium. Today, vertical gardens have proliferated alongside the interest in indoor plants and gardens, especially in suitable climates. This trend in architecture reflects a simultaneous uptick in interest toward sustainability and a more pastoral, back-to-nature lifestyle. In the projects listed below, several of the architects mention moving forward from an industrial past—with its concomitant environmental effects—toward a better future, or at least a secluded, fresh, and natural outpost amidst the chaos of modern city life. Indoor gardens, and the visual allure of hanging plants and climbing vines, provide the setting for such a life. These vertical designs simultaneously conserve space and embed the plants within the atmosphere of the house, ensuring the space feels as much like a garden as it does a comfortable home.
A carbon neutral building is achieved when the amount of CO2 emissions is balanced by climate-positive initiatives so that the net carbon footprint over time is zero. Considering their unmatched ability to absorb CO2, planting trees is often viewed as the best carbon offsetting solution. But as cities become denser and the amount of available horizontal space for green areas drastically reduces, architects have been forced to explore other approaches. Therefore, to address these climatic challenges and connect people to nature, exterior green walls have become a rising trend in increasingly vertical cities. Even if there is research to claim that these can positively impact the environment, many question if they can actually contribute to a carbon neutral architecture. Although the answer may be quite complex, there seems to be a consensus: green walls can be effective, but only through good design.
Humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature, regardless of the physical or geographical conditions in which we find ourselves. As we become increasingly detached from the wilderness, we develop means and strategies to bring nature back into our daily lives, even if only for a few moments.
There are many ways of domesticating nature, as seen throughout the history of mankind, through fascinating structures that challenge technical limitations, such as vertical indoor gardens.
PLP revealed its design for a luxury residential tower in Singapore, featuring a lush vertical garden inspired by the city’s greenery. The biophilic design that blurs the line between indoor living areas and outdoor spaces strives to redefine metropolitan living by promoting health and wellbeing.
With the increase of urban density and the decrease in the availability of land, the verticalization phenomenon has intensified in cities all over the world. Similar to the vertical growth of buildings — which is often a divisive issue for architects and urban planners — many initiatives have sought in the vertical dimension a possibility to foster the use of vegetation in urban areas. Vertical gardens, farms and forests, rooftop vegetable gardens, and elevated structures for urban agriculture are some of the many possibilities of verticalization in plant cultivation, each with its unique characteristics and specific impacts on the city and its inhabitants.
But is verticalization the ideal solution to make cities greener? And what are the impacts of this action in urban areas? Furthermore, what benefits of urban plants are lost when adopting vertical solutions instead of promoting its cultivation directly on the ground?
Koichi Takada Unveils World’s Most Dense Vertical Gardens, for a Mixed-Use Highrise in Brisbane, Australia
Urban Forest, a 30-story mixed-use residential high-rise is the latest development designed by Koichi Takada Architects. Located in South Brisbane, Australia, the building features one of the world’s most densely-forested vertical gardens, going beyond regular green buildings norms and achieving “300% site cover with living greenery, featuring 1000 plus trees and more than 20,000 plants selected from 259 native species”. Increasing biodiversity and reducing the ecological footprint, the structure highlights another stage in the evolution of the architectural vertical garden.
Warsaw-based FAAB studio envisioned a mixed-use development that enhances its own environment, while involving its inhabitants in the process. In fact, the prototype architectural intervention aims to give tools for people to control and manage the changing climate.
Indoor gardens can contribute important benefits to home living, ranging from aesthetic beauty to improved health and productivity. Research has shown that indoor plants help eliminate indoor air pollutants called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that emanate from adhesives, furnishings, clothing, and solvents, and are known to cause illnesses. They also increase subjective perceptions of concentration and satisfaction, as well as objective measures of productivity. Indoor gardens may even reduce energy use and costs because of the reduced need for air circulation. These benefits complement the obvious aesthetic advantages of a well-designed garden, making the indoor garden an attractive residential feature on several fronts.
The internationally recognized architecture firm Aedas has unveiled their design for the Zhenghong Property Air Harbour Office Project. The sprawling and interconnected 196 foot-tall three-tower complex is proposed for the city of Zhengzhou, the capital of the Henan Province in central China—one of the regions' largest transportation hubs. Occupying a relatively narrow site, the towers are woven together by a rhythmic glass facade inspired by the formal qualities of the winding Yellow River.
About thirty years ago, French landscape architect Patrick Blanc became a pioneer in the implementation of vertical gardens in Paris, and later in other cities around the world. Through the creation of vertical structures capable nourishing plant species, these systems allow species to grow on the facades of buildings, considerably reducing a structure's internal temperature and allowing the expansion of green areas to new (vertical) territories within the city.
Blanc's creation was part of a series of developments in understanding what nature adds to the city, recognizing the value of green spaces and their contribution to social, environmental and urban policies.
Milroy Perera Associates, in collaboration with Mäga Engineering, has unveiled plans for the world's tallest residential vertical garden in Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka. The Clearpoint tower will house 164 apartments spread across 46 floors within 10 kkilometers from the centre of Columbo. Overlooking the tributaries of the Diyawanna Lake in Kotte, planted viewing terraces will encircle the entire structure fed by "inbuilt self-sustaining watering systems."
The Subterranean Concrete Orgy by Toki Drobnjakovic and Per Sundberg (Per & Toki) is a reinvention of the "infamous" Blue Star building in Stockholm. The designers, looking for a new studio and office space for Studioverket, have collaborated with concrete producer Butong to realize a space of "homogenous diversity" by using a new type of concrete sealed air bubble casting. By incorporating new design features and in reinventing some of the existing, the basement space has been transformed from pornography shop to elegant studio defined by a series of unique interventions. See the changes after the break...