By far the worst part about living in a big city is the tradeoff of rarely seeing much nature. It's also what makes the natural pockets of beauty embedded within cities so breathtaking. One architect is looking to solve that problem. Stefano Boeri runs a firm based in Italy that unveiled plans earlier this year for cities in China practically made out of forests, with greenery flowing out of the different floors of the buildings. He already pulled it off in Milan with the Bosco Verticale -- or "vertical forest" -- complex completed in 2014. Now the firm's been tasked with a bigger project: two new forest towers in the Chinese city Nanjing, which will serve as a model for expanding the style to three full cities in China.
Decked out with 23 different types of trees and more than 2,500 shrubs, future tenants of the new "Nanjing Green Towers" would include offices, a 247-room luxury hotel, a museum, and a school dedicated to green architecture. The hope is that they'll represent a first step to a more sustainable China.
"We have been asked to design an entire city where you don’t only have one tall building but you have 100 or 200 buildings of different sizes, all with trees and plants on the facades," Boeri told the Guardian. "By 2020 we could imagine having the first forest city in China."
It's a plan that will hopefully feed into initiatives to counter the country's smog and air pollution problem -- a serious enough concern that China's government had to redouble efforts to fight it earlier this year. China has some of the worst air pollution problems in the world. "Environmental pollution remains grave, and in particular, some areas are frequently hit by heavy smog," Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in a statement earlier this year.
For now, construction on two vertical forest towers similar to the one in Milan is underway, but Boeri plans on eventually expanding the effort to the Chinese cities Liuzhou and Shijiazhuang. Two individual towers won't do much on their own to fight air pollution. Despite the amount of plants that will be used in the Nanjing complex, the average car pumps out so much pollution -- about 4.7 metric tons of CO2 a year -- that the total number of plants in the Nanjing towers will only clean up the equivalent to what roughly 5 cars a year produce.
“Two towers in a huge urban environment, [such as Nanjing] is so, so small a contribution," he said. "But it is an example. We hope that this model of green architecture can be repeated and copied and replicated.”
Check out the designs and mockups for the new complex in Nanjing and future plans for cities in China, as well as photos from the site in Milan, below.