17 December 2019
The architect Stefano Boeri could well be described as The Man who Planted Trees – after the title of Jean Giono’s wonderful 1953 short story. Like a modern-day Elzéard Bouffier, this pioneering and resolute Milanese architect reforests urban sites with a new generation of buildings, tall tower blocks in which the balconies become living spaces, hosting many different species of trees of varying dimensions, heights and growth rates. Cities are the biggest culprits when it comes to the problem of climate change and, according to Boeri’s Manifesto of Urban Forestry, are in a position to become an integral part of the solution. These buildings thus become an architectural device that promotes the co-presence of architecture and nature in cities, thus encouraging the creation of complex urban ecosystems.
After their multi-award-winning Vertical Forest in 2014, replicated all over the world, from Lausanne to Nanjing, Utrecht, Paris and Eindhoven to the Futurist vision of a Colony of Vertical Forests on Mars, and their ongoing commitment to the global campaign for urban forestation to multiply the number of forests and trees in cities, Stefano Boeri Architects have taken another environmental “step” forward, with the first city-forest of the new millennium. The Smart Forest City at Cancun in Mexico, will restore plant life to a large swathe of land earmarked for a huge shopping mall with 7.500,000 plants (of 400 different species, chosen by landscape architect and agronomist Laura Gatti), including 260,000 trees, around 2.3 trees per inhabitant, along with shrubs and bushes, making for 400 hectares of greenery overall for a population of 130,000 inhabitants. The large parks, garden roofs and green façades will bring nature back into these actually occupied areas with a perfect balance of green and built-on areas. The project envisages that 116,000 tons of carbon dioxide will be absorbed each year, and 5,800 tones of CO2 stocked.
The Smart Forest City will be a sustainable and avant-garde city, an international and “open city” essentially inspired by the values of technological innovation and environmental quality. Conceived as an energetically self-sufficient human settlement, the city will be surrounded by a ring of solar panels, while a water channel connected to an underground plant at the sea will allow the city to be sustainably fed, thus developing a circular economy in terms of water use. Water is in fact the key element of the project, collected at the entrance to the city in a large dock and processed by a desalination tower before being distributed by a system of navigable canals serving the entire settlement and irrigating the outer belt of agricultural fields.
The city will be an ideal location for university departments, organisations, laboratories and companies involved with environmental sustainability and the future of the planet. Research and development centres are envisaged for students and researchers not just from Mexican universities, but from the most renowned academies in the world. The Smart Forest City will also be in the vanguard as regards mobility, with a structured internal transport system provided by electric and semi-automatic vehicles. Combustion vehicles will be left outside the city by inhabitants and visitors alike. Lastly, the urban project for the city has been drawn up according to non-deterministic urbanism principles. Given the great invariants of the urban structure – as regards energy infrastructures, mobility, greenery, the presence of leading research and development nuclei and the right of every inhabitant to have all services within a reasonable distance on foot or by bicycle – the city will ensure great flexibility in the distribution of different buildings and architectural structures across the five great segments provided for under the Master Plan.
This city is a paen to environmental awareness and to the value of greenery in an urban setting, with its respect for biodiversity and commitment to combating fine particulate and CO2. A city of hope.