Parks In the Sky

One day Italian architect  Stefano Boeri was walking around fabulously wealthy Dubai and grew tired of all the glass walled buildings that distinguish the city. Too sterile to look at, he thought, and too wasteful of the energy needed to keep them livable. There must be something better, and he decided to work on it.

The result is a pair of buildings that are the talk and pride of Milan, Italy. In this heavily industrialized city they are an offering to the gods of change, beauty and energy conservation.  All 800 units in the 27-story buildings have balconies with two trees, an array of plants with birds nesting in them, all living comfortably with human occupants. It seems to be a park heading skyward that almost makes the apartments disappear, a striking contrast to the routine of the typically makeshift city.

Architect Boeri says his plan has been realized. Nature can be enjoyed in the midst of the city hubbub. Trees can help absorb pollutants, he says, and contribute to global cooling. “Bringing more trees into the city means fighting the enemy on the spot.” With renewable energy solar panels and a flittered water system sustain plant life. Once every three months three flying gardeners repel from the roof down to every apartment to prune and water the vegetation.

That sight itself is worth the price of the rent, which varies considerably from the affluent top occupants to the more affordable units down below. Boeri says he wants renters of all levels of income to have nature in their lives. A full survey of their adjustment to this new existence has yet to be made. Higher upper Simona Pozzi says how much she enjoys watching her plants change with the seasons. Instead of going out to a park she comes home to one.

Boeri has been encouraged to build even taller sky soaring parks elsewhere, and admirers are duplicating his efforts in various parts of the world. China, However, offers a note of caution. An elevated park in the city of Chengdu has lost most of its occupants because of mosquitoes swarming in and plants enveloping balconies that leave no room for humans. Maintenance is obviously lacking. Some diehards grumble that trees belong on the ground not in the air, but that increasingly is where they are to largely dazzling effect.

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