Two curvaceous skyscrapers currently under construction are at the core of an urban project that will see a forest created in the heart of Beijing.
MAD Architects, a Chinese architecture firm, is the driving force behind the “urban forest” project, Chaoyang Park Plaza. The concept was spearheaded by MAD’s lead architect and founder, Ma Yansong, who designed the plaza to revitalise Beijing’s CBD.
With this project, MAD is also expanding on the concept of the "urban forest." While the term is commonly used to described the tree cover in cities, MAD has taken things a step further, creating a series of buildings and public space where the architecture resembles and even sounds like a forest.
The 120,000 square metre project will offer commercial, office and residential space bordering Chaoyang Park - the largest park in Beijing.
While there are already an array of projects across the globe including plant life into buildings in the form of living walls, MAD’s project attempts to replicate a forest explore just how close the connection between architecture and nature can be.
The two skyscrapers and surrounding buildings are designed to respect the history of Beijing while transforming features of Chinese classical landscapes such as “lakes, springs, forests, creeks, valley and stones into modern city landscapes,” according to MAD.
“This project pushes the boundary of the urbanisation process in modern cosmopolitan life by creating a dialogue between artificial scenery and natural landscapes,” the firm says on its website.
The two skyscrapers represent nearby tall mountain cliffs and river landscapes and will dramatically alter the city’s skyline. Plaza 1 will rise 120 metres (28 floors) while Plaza 2 will be 108 metres (27 floors) high.
The towers feature rippling exterior glass façades designed to echo ridges and valleys “as if the natural forces of erosion wore down the tower into a few thin lines.” Public gardens span multi-level terraces across the top of the building, and an internal ventilation and filtration system uses the ridges of the façade to draw in fresh air, leading to cleaner indoor air and increased energy efficiency.
The project offers additional green elements such as “natural lighting, intelligent building and air purification system,” earning a LEED Gold certificate by the US Green Building Council.
While the exteriors were designed to look like a forest, the buildings' interiors will offer the sights and sounds of wandering through one to offer up an augmented sense of being in the middle of nature.
A courtyard lobby - a common design element throughout all the buildings in the precinct - will connect the two towers and will feature the sounds of flowing water while offering natural scenes of a mountain valley. The courtyard will sit approximately 17 metres above the ground.
Other developments around the towers include four office buildings “shaped like river stones that have been eroded over a long period” and two multi-level residential buildings that will also feature the courtyard concept working to provide forest ambiance.
The project is scheduled for completion in 2016.
Other urban forest architecture initiatives are happening all over the world.
One of the most anticipated examples remains Bosco Verticale, a pair of neighbouring skyscrapers (110 metres and 76 metres) in Milan by architect Stefano Boeri. The project, slated for completion later this year, has been named the world’s first vertical forest.
Each tower will house 900 trees each ranging from three metres to nine metres and over 2,000 plants. According to Boeri, this equates to 7,000 square metres of forest.
“It is a model of vertical densification of nature within the city that operates in relation to policies for reforestation and naturalisation of large urban and metropolitan borders,” he said.
Over in Vancouver, the nine-storey FOCAL by Arno Matis Architecture is inspired by trees.
Its facade features solid glass panels combined with eco-friendly wood panelling, and building appears to be a series of rotated blocks. This allows the facade to reflect the building's surroundings and maximise the amount of natural light absorbed on each floor.
“The vertical forest façade is an impressionistic interpretation of light filtering through Vancouver’s coastal forest," Arno Matis' website reads.