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Green, not gray: Plants are taking over architecture

Hamburg, Jun 25, 2013 - Architecture is facing a period of upheaval. In times of climate change and a shortage of resources, environmentally-responsible construction, sustainability and energy efficiency are increasingly gaining in importance. Architects are using spectacular roof gardens, green walls and natural methods of ventilation to revolutionize architecture. In the coming years, a sea of green, consisting of trees, flowers and tendrils, will gradually conquer sterile high-rise facades, creating a wholly new urban landscape in the process.

The trend toward Green Architecture is epitomized by one current project in particular, a complex named Bosco Verticale – "Vertical Forest". In this project, two high-rises are home to as many trees as a 10,000m² (2,470 acre) area of forest, and so create a green oasis in the heart of Milan, Italy. Emporis, the international provider of building data, has taken the upcoming completion of this prestigious project as an opportunity to compile a list of the most exciting examples of Green Architecture.

The idea of using plants as part of a building's structure is not entirely new. It was in 1992 that Ken Yeang, a self-titled "eco-architect", set the first standard in Green Architecture with his Menara Mesiniaga tower in Subang Jaya, Malaysia. Thanks to its unique facade guaranteeing natural ventilation, and its generous greenery on each floor, the tower is regarded as ecologically pioneering and as the world's first bioclimatic high-rise.

At the moment, however, the probably best-known proponents of the "green city" are the Singapore architects WOHA. Their "breathing" high-rises, which they refer to as "Sky Villages", are model examples for sustainable buildings throughout the world. Especially in Singapore, one of the world's most densely-populated cities, their projects send a clear signal – that nature is reclaiming the city. Thus in the foreseeable future, WOHA's most recently-completed project, the hotel and office complex PARKROYAL on Pickering, will also disappear under the green of its plants.

Big multinationals are also viewing the principle of Green Architecture as an opportunity to provide their employees with a healthy working environment that is in tune with nature. With Apple, Facebook and Google all having released plans for new, sustainable corporate headquarters, Amazon followed suit a few weeks ago with a spectacular concept – three enormous glass domes reminiscent of conservatories are to be constructed to house tall, mature trees situated on the grounds of the office complex the company is planning to build in Seattle.