Why plantscrapers are springing up across the globe
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Why plantscrapers are springing up across the globe

The One Central Park Towers on Sydney's Broadway.

The One Central Park Towers on Sydney's Broadway.

Photo: Murray Fredericks

You could be forgiven for imagining the striking towers of One Central Park on Sydney's Broadway, whose north and west facades are smothered with up to 40,000 indigenous plants, are a one-off exercise in urban environmentalism, designed for apartment dwellers with deep pockets. But the reality is that green-covered towers – plantscrapers – are springing up across the globe.

It's no surprise; they're adept at fighting air pollution, reducing energy costs and creating more peaceful places to live. Most of these new-generation "living" towers are wrapped in plants on all sides, and not just two, such as One Central Park. Italian architect Stefano Boeri, whose award-winning plant-covered Bosco Verticale towers in Milan have been shown to be highly effective insulators against heat and cold, has designed an entire city in China enveloped in nature.

An artist’s rendering of China’s Liuzhou Forest City, where 30,000 people will live.

An artist’s rendering of China’s Liuzhou Forest City, where 30,000 people will live.

By 2020, construction is expected to begin on Liuzhou Forest City, an urban landscape in which offices, houses, hotels, a hospital and two schools will be entirely carpeted in 1 million plants and 40,000 trees. The city aims to be energy self-sufficient through a combination of solar and geothermal energy. Boeri is also working on a foliage-covered social housing project in the Netherlands.

Green towers could also double as a community food source. A Swedish company, Plantagon, has designed what it calls the world's first vertical indoor farm in the southern city of LinkÖping. The 60-metre-high World Food Building, which will double as an office tower, will contain a spiralled production line of crops grown hydroponically. Plantagon, which won an international architecture award in 2016, hopes the structure, also due for completion in 2020, will supply locally grown produce to residents year-round. A new term – agritecture – has even been coined to describe this combination of agriculture and architecture.

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Plantagon has designed what it calls the world's first vertical indoor farm in the southern city of LinkÖping.

Plantagon has designed what it calls the world's first vertical indoor farm in the southern city of LinkÖping.

While urban rooftop farms have already sprung up in cities like New York, Plantagon believes greenhouse skyscrapers could be a real solution to future food shortages and a dwindling supply of fertile farm land. The answer to some intractable global problems appears to be looking up.

To read more from Good Weekend magazine, visit our page at The Sydney Morning Herald or The Age.