Literally Green Buildings

Literally Green Buildings

By Jan S. Gephardt

Happy 51st Earth Day! Followers of my Artdog Adventures blog 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.”

This montage shows “25 Verde,” Boeri’s “vertical forest,” and the Chicland Hotel with vines cascading from each balcony.
At left, two views of “25 Verde,” in Turin, Italy (Haute Residence). In the center, three views of the “Bosco Verticale” or “Vertical Forest” in Milan, Italy (stacked photos: Stefano Boeri Architetti. Full-length view: Green Roofs / Laura Gatti), and two views of VTN’s concept design for the Chicland Hotel in Da Nang, Vietnam (ArchDaily / VTN).

In previous posts I’ve spotlighted projects such as Luciano Pia’s “urban treehouse25 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.

Green roofs then and now, as described in the cutline.
Green roofs are nothing new. At left, sod roofs on log buildings in the outdoor Norsk Folkemuseum of Oslo Norway (by Kjetil Bjørnsrud – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia), contemporary green roofs that include trees on a high-rise complex (Urbanscape Architecture), and Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay, Wisconsin, where goats graze on the grassy roof (Country Living / Flickr / Jesse Lisa).

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 1975Les 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.

Five views of the Ivry-sur-Seine housing complex near Paris France.
Called “Les Etoiles” (“the Stars”) because of their angled shapes, these buildings present an earlier melding of nature and architecture than our other spotlighted sites. The two photos on the left are from the “KUDOYBOOK” blog, the center photo comes from @TopAmazingWorld on Twitter, and the two on the right are from Solarpunk Aesthetic on tumblr.

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.

4 views of Namba Parks from above.
Photographers from high above in neighboring high-rises have caught some great photos of Namba Parks. Top left and right, as well as the bottom photo are from ArchDaily’s article “Namba Parks / The Jerde Partnership.” Top-center “View from Above Namba Parks” is by 663highland, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia.

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.

8 photos of the Parkroyal on Pickering from a variety of angles.
If the Parkroyal Hotel on Pickering isn’t the most-photographed hotel in Singapore, it’s got to be right up there in the top ten. I found so many great shots of this place it was hard to narrow it down to just eight! Most of the photos in this collection are from Trip Advisor’s enormous gallery in its article on this highly-rated luxury hotel. That includes the one at lower left from a contributor identified as “Mcfulcher,” and the dizzying view down past the balconies to the street next to it, by a contributor identified as “cwydyy.” Others came from the hotel itself, except for the side-by-side photos at top far left and left. They’re courtesy of Forbes, provided by WOHA, the architectural firm that designed this unique bulding. You can especially see the deep, sturdy structure that securely supports all the verdant plant life in the photos at far left.

IMAGE CREDITS

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).

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