Living Architecture and Urban Ecosystems

Session: D: Vertical Sustainability: Design and Engineering for the Environment

Kirsten BauerProject image

Kirsten Bauer
Director, Aspect Studios

Towers festooned with greenery – like Bosco Verticale in Milan or One Central Park in Sydney – offer a vision of verdant cities that resemble a forest in the sky. But projects like these involve vast amounts of carbon-intense materials and tremendous technological and capital investments to produce.

So what, then, is the point of living architecture?
Based on our experience and research, living architecture offers a complex and intersecting combination of benefits to the project itself, the wider public, and the environment. Living architecture represents an opportunity to move away from a paradigm where the goal is the mitigation of environmental impacts, toward one where buildings are designed as part of an urban ecosystem.

The challenge lies in expressing these benefits in a way that satisfies the commercial calculus that rationalizes tall building projects. We will examine how the value proposition of living architecture can be understood, quantified, maintained and communicated, and describe the performative benefits that have the capacity to transform cities into functional ecologies on a broad scale.

Part of this involves articulating the innate biophilic response present in all people, and how the extension of greenery into the air can improve the health, wellbeing and productivity of both the building’s inhabitants and those observing it.

Using case studies of built work and our design research, we will demonstrate how vegetation can be incorporated on and within tall buildings using lightweight construction techniques. The best possible tall building is one that invites nature into the city – the question is how to best go about it.