One of the areas that came out of this was the ISOLA district.
To put a positive spin on it, the ISOLA district was a place that retained the nostalgic look of old Milan—an area that you’d expect artists to flock to. On the negative side, it was a neighborhood that was falling into disrepair. It was the site of a huge redevelopment project before the Expo, and has now transformed into one of the most fashionable districts in Milan.
The project brought together the talents of a group of Italian architects considered among the best in the world, each of them constructing unique structures almost as a competition, yet somehow achieving a harmony among them to create the ISOLA district.
The most talked-about of these buildings was probably the Bosco Verticale (vertical forest), which is a high-rise that towers over the center of the city surrounded by countless trees.
After much consideration by an architect Stefano Boeri, the idea probably came to him in a flash—that this was the kind of residential tower the Milanese wanted. There is so little greenery in the city that many of them flock to the ocean and mountains on the weekend in search of relaxation and rejuvenation, so he probably thought that the locals would want an urban lifestyle that allowed them to be in the forest without leaving the city.
The fact that you can see the Alps from Milan tells you that it’s semi-basin terrain, meaning the air is fairly stagnant and that summers have oppressively scorching heat made worse by the heat island effect. Meanwhile, it seems like every winter there’s some kind of problem with air pollution when it doesn’t rain for days on end—the smog is so bad that they restrict vehicle traffic.
In short, it’s an ecological structure that’s perfect for Milan. Mr. Boeri designed two residential towers, one 18 stories high and the other 26 stories, each unit featuring a large terrace with more than 10,000 trees in over 900 species planted in total, all of them tended by professional botanists. Still, the residents aren’t allowed to plant whatever they want—grow tomato seedlings so they have homegrown tomatoes, for example, or plant grapevines to make wine, or olive trees to have something to snack on with their aperitifs.
The oxygen produced by the photosynthesis of the trees on the terrace is refreshing for the people who live there, and the building is easy on the people and the city because it prevents passersby from being roasted by the reflected light and heat peculiar to the building. It’s wonderful even for an average person like me, who doesn’t have a cottage in the mountains or at the ocean. Residents look out over the Alps to the north and the streets of Milan to the south, and in addition to these great views they’ve got a brand-new, automated subway station and a fully-stocked supermarket right next door! It’s got to be an awesome place to live.
Of course it’s one of the most expensive places to live as well. The only people who can afford to buy a unit are famous soccer players and other rich, important people. You can experience it for yourself, though, if you rent a room through Airbnb.
It costs about 26,000 yen a night for a two-person room.
I’d love to see what it’s like to live there, but until that day comes, I’ll do my tiny part to contribute to the greening of Milan by trying to cover the walks of my current home with ivy.