Happy 51st Earth Day! Followers of Artdog Adventures may remember earlier posts about environmentally-friendly architecture. I tend to post them around Earth Day. People sometimes talk about “green buildings.” But there’s “green” as in eco-friendly, and then there’s “green” as in literally green buildings. And some are both.
What do I mean by “literally green buildings”?
When I say “literally green buildings,” I mean green with plants. Lately, more and more architects think about plants from the very start of planning. This goes way beyond landscaping for curb appeal. They plan to make the plants part of the building.
I have lots of reasons to be interested in this intersection of beneficial plants with built environments. I’m both a lifelong gardener and the daughter of an architectural design professor who instilled a love of buildings in me. And Rana Station, the fictional setting for my XK9 stories, is kind of the ultimate “built environment with plants.”
In previous posts I’ve spotlighted projects such as Luciano Pia’s “urban treehouse” 25 Verde, and Stefano Boeri’s Bosco Verticale, or “vertical forest.” The Italians don’t have a corner on that market, of course. VTN Architects in Vietnam create many spectacular, plant-centric designs. So do others.
Literally green buildings since before history
People have always loved to incorporate plants into their living spaces. That’s nothing new. Trees probably provided our first shelter. And evidence of prehistoric and early-historic dugout shelters can be found all over the world. Sod roofs date into antiquity in Scandinavia for highly practical reasons.
In the same way, sod homes for European migrants on the North American plains, winter houses for Aleut peoples in Alaska, and others have sheltered humans for centuries. Often grasses grew/grow on them. Sometimes animals graze on them. “Green roofs” started to get popular on city buildings in the early 1970s. That trend is still growing. They offer quite a list of benefits.
“Literally green” means built for plants as well as people
For this post I’ve chosen developments that bring green spaces and plantings into exterior architecture. They are literally green buildings. Many studies have shown the benefits of green spaces and trees. And that goes double for cities.
People also incorporate “Green Walls” into indoor and outdoor spaces. I’ll focus on them in a future post. But for now, here are glimpses of three that caught my eye. I hope you like them, too.
Ivry-sur-Seine, Paris, France
Welcome to Communist France! Ivry-sur-Seine, a Paris suburb, is organized as a commune—one of several in France. And communist ideology inspired this residence development. The married architectural team of Jean Renaudie and Renée Gailhoustet designed them as affordable housing. Built between 1969 and 1975 “Les Etoiles” (“the stars”) are built with sharp angles on multiple levels, with many green spaces. They’re quite a unique vision. They’re also literally green buildings.
Namba Parks Shopping Center in Osaka, Japan
The curving lines, many levels, and distinctive plantings make this beautiful shopping district a Pinterest favorite. That’s where I first glimpsed it. Winner of an Urban Land Institute Award of Excellence in 2009, it creates a “natural intervention” in Osaka’s dense urban space. There’s a rooftop park, a “canyon” walkway, and eight levels of offices, shops, dining, and places to relax. Next door: a 46-story residential tower and a 30-story office tower.
The Parkroyal Hotel in Singapore
Billed as a “Modern-Day Hanging Gardens of Babylon,” the sustainably-designed Parkroyal Hotel on Pickering opened in 2013. It gives another eye-opening melding of plants with architecture. The Singaporean architectural firm WOHA was already known for incorporating a lot of greenery into their buildings. They designed the balconies and other green spaces to support the weight and root systems. They also designed the plantings and specifically chose the species for ease of maintenance. I think it’s safe to say that the luxury Parkroyal on Pickering really takes the “park” part seriously.
It worked out better this time to ID the photo credits in the cutlines for each montage. See those for the most complete information.
The exception is the Header photo. In that montage, which doesn’t get a cutline. I collected five of the most unique buildings featured in this post. L-R: First the “Bosco Verticale” or “Vertical Forest” in Milan, Italy (Green Roofs / Laura Gatti). Next, the Parkroyal Hotel on Pickering in Singapore (Trip Advisor / “cwydyy”). At center, “View from Above Namba Parks” in Osaka, Japan (663highland, CC BY 2.5 / Wikimedia). Next comes a view of “Les Etoiles” of Ivry-sur-Seine near Paris, France (@TopAmazingWorld / Twitter). At far right, VTN’s concept for the Chicland Hotel in Da Nang, Vietnam (ArchDaily / VTN).