Can tiny forest architecture save our cities?

This recently-planted forest is a complex ecosystem, and it’s no bigger than a tennis court.
It’s called a Miyawaki forest. Based on the research of Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki in the 1970s, these small, dense plantings are springing up in urban settings around the world, including Japan, India, and Europe.
Because of their small size, they can develop into a fully-fledged ecosystem in just 20 years (compare that to the 200 years most forests need). All the while, they absorb CO2 and become havens of biodiversity for local insects, plants and animals.

Vegetation economics

We think of the natural world as being something far away from those of us living in the cities, but new initiatives are showing just how necessary it is to bring vegetation back to our urban environments.
One thing experts stress: urban forest initiatives, like Miyawaki forests, are not a replacement for preserving native forests. Even so, they do make a difference.
The United Kingdom’s statistics shared that it had saved over 1 billion pounds in health-related costs due to the vegetation in the country.
Alan Simson, a professor in urban forestry, writes that by 2119, cities will only be able to support their populations if “contact with the natural world, particularly trees” is re-established. The City of Sydney has committed to increasing its urban forest by 50% by 2030.

Buildings as forests

A decade after Miyawaki was studying tiny forests, an Austrian artist named Friedensreich Hundertwasser was experimenting with turning a building into its very own ecosystem.
Now a must-see for architecture buffs visiting Austria, the Hundertwasser building is covered in over 200 trees and shrubs. Trees appear to jut out from every direction, filling the building with green.

Australian opportunities

Sydney residents are just becoming familiar with the idea of merging architecture and forestry. Klaar’s mission is to show how existing buildings, as well as new developments, can embrace a greener exterior and interior through innovative facades and great design.
For those interested in recent local examples, one already-iconic building is the sprawling-green vista of One Central Park near Broadway, the result of a collaboration between an architect and a botanist.
Another project in development is in Waterloo, designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. His ‘stacked forest’ building features a towering façade of wood and plants.
It reflects a changing outlook about architecture, particularly in a COVID-19 landscape, Kuma told the Australian Financial Review. “Many didn’t care what was outside as long as your own space, or box, was fine. Now we have cause to look out, from within, and we are seeing what we might have missed.”

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