But don't miss the forest for the trees: there is some very interesting urban design happening here.
With a name like TreeHugger, it is not surprising that we pay a lot of attention to the work of Italian architect Stefano Boeri, famous for covering his buildings in trees. It started with some skepticism about whether it made much sense or was replicable, but like his tree-covered buildings, it has grown on us. Now Boeri has moved beyond tree-covered buildings and is creating tree-covered cities in China. We showed a few glimpses of Liuzhou Forest City in an earlier post, but now Boeri's office has released interesting new images.
Liuzhou Forest City will be built in the north of Liuzhou, in the mountain area of Guangxi, in the southern part of China; in an area that covers 175 hectares along the Liujiang river. The new green city, entirely wired, will be connected to Liuzhou through a fast rail line used by electric cars and will host various residential areas, commercial and recreational spaces, two schools and a hospital.
Liuzhou Forest City will have all the characteristics of an energy self-sufficient urban establishment: geothermal energy for interior air-conditioning and solar panels over the roofs for collecting renewable energy
It doesn't actually look like there is a lot of roof for solar panels; every building appears to be terraced and covered in plants and trees. So many plants and trees. It is also much more restrained than the original tower in Milan, which had giant trees on huge cantilevered balconies that had so much concrete in them that the trees could never suck up enough CO2 to compensate for the embodied carbon. Here, the balconies do not look too big and the planting is rather modest except for those trees on the roof.
But Boeri reiterates:
For the first time in China and in the world, an innovative urban settlement will combine the challenge for energy self-sufficiency and for the use of renewable energy with the challenge to increase biodiversity and to effectively reduce air pollution in urban areas – which is really critical for present-day China – thanks to the multiplication of vegetable and biological urban surfaces.
The great innovation of Stefano Boeri Architetti’s project is the presence of plants and trees over every building, of all sizes and functions. Liuzhou Forest City will host in total 40,000 trees and almost 1 million plants of over 100 species. The diffusion of plants, not only in the parks and gardens or along the streets, but also over building facades, will allow the energy self-sufficient city to contribute to improve the air quality (absorbing both CO2 and fine dust of 57 tons per year), to decrease the average air temperature, to create noise barriers and to improve the biodiversity of living species, generating the habitat for birds, insects and small animals that inhabit the Liuzhou territory.
But the key to reducing air pollution in urban areas is not to suck up pollution with plants, but to eliminate it at the source by getting rid of cars. That's why I find this plan so interesting, stretched along the railway line with what looks like two big stations within walkable or cyclable distance from any building.
The detailed renderings do show cars and do not show any bikes, which is a shame. Boeri promises that "the new city will host 30,000 people, absorb almost 10,000 tons of CO2 and 57 tons of pollutants per year and produce approximately 900 tons of oxygen." But imagine how much better it would be if there were no cars producing the CO2 and pollutants in the first place.