Vertical Environments – Not Just Tall Stories

oliver General, Healthy spaces, Natural stuff, Technology/ Energy Saving

Recently I was asked to get involved with a TV proposal looking to create an urban vertical farm from a disused tower block – codenamed ‘Pigs in Penthouses’. Sadly the show didn’t get commissioned, which is a real shame as it was brilliantly bonkers. But it’s thought provoking just how much aerial space has yet to be reclaimed by nature. There is a real opportunity here and whilst there are stark juxtapositions of technology meeting the natural environment, just think of the benefits to sustainable living and biodiversity, not least to the visual appearance of our skylines. So I thought I’d share a few of my favourite green tower visionaries.


It’s estimated that by the year 2050, 80% of humans will live in urban centres. It’s also thought the population will increase by a staggering three billion in that time. Somehow we’re going to need the land to grow enough food to feed everyone but, at present, about 80% of farmable land is already in use. This puts us all in a rather tricky situation. But there is a solution – to farm vertically.


The Vertical Farm idea, proposed by Dr. Dickson Despommier, is based on existing farming methods but simply takes the idea one step (or should that be several stories?) further. Vertical farms, many stories high, in the middle of our urban environment providing a year-round, sustainable food supply. It has some pretty spectacular benefits as well. Crops are not subjected to droughts, floods or pests, all the food is grown organically and agricultural run-off is eliminated by recycling grey water.




But what about our four-legged, furry and feathered friends? Could the same technology be applied to provide urban environments for them? Well, in short, yes it can. The Vertical Zoo, proposed by Mexico-based Buba Arquitectos, has its roots in the same place as The Vertical Farm. At a time when urban wildlife faces a real threat, it’s great that some people are considering its future too.



The proposed Bosco Verticale in Milan, one of Europe’s most polluted cities, also plans to create a green space in the sky. This vertical forest is a response to the disappearance of nature from the everyday lives of Milanese people. Not only would this be a green environment in the city but it would also help to counterbalance some of the pollution problems they face. I love the soft edged, furry quality they add the the urban skyline.



And if all this seems a little out of reach, take a look at what’s going on over in Japan. In a bid to reduce temperatures, citizens were encouraged to grow these beautiful green curtains from free kits. This helped to lower concrete temperatures by as much as 25ËšC. And, of course, it adds some much needed greenery to the urban environment.



There you have it. The future, and hopefully the skies, could look a little greener.