Milan is full of unusual sights. As the most populous city in Italy, and its main financial and industrial center, it’s a riot of color and design. But amid the skyline is a building that even for Milan is strange: The Bosco Verticale, or Vertical Forest, a skyscraper encircled with trees, finished in 2014. The building was designed by acclaimed architect Stefano Boeri, and — if everyone from marijuana growers to Chinese investors get their way — will soon be as recognizable to urbanites as glass and steel towers are now.
Why? As cities expand, they destroy farmland, pump out smog, and fail to produce food. Parks, community gardens, and other green spaces can only do so much, and many foresee demand for food and the strain of climate change as an imminent danger. At the same time, we’re increasingly eager to know more about what we eat and where it’s coming from, and finding that information lacking. More and more people understand that everything we eat has a “footprint” and that the further your food travels, the more ecological damage it causes.
At the same time, as food-producing California faces water shortages that not even record precipitation can reverse, and climate change affects farmland across the world, shipping food from water-rich regions has become a vital necessity. Simply put, both consumer demand and environmental struggles mean that cities want their farms as close as possible to the populace, producing as much as possible (with as little water loss as possible), and while helping mitigate the pollution.
It’s a tall order. Literally.