In the mid-2010s, the vertical forests of Italian Stefano Boeri, in Milan, made the world dream. These high-rise buildings, whose facades disappeared behind the foliage, provided the neoliberal city with exactly what it needed: a chic and chlorophyllous program of redemption. They have since been emulated almost everywhere, and in particular in Paris where the winners of the first Réinventer Paris call for projects all, or almost all, seemed to have been immersed in a large emerald green bath. Many of their proposals were abandoned along the way, starting with the most spectacular, “Mille Trees”, by Sou Fujimoto and Oxo Architects for the Compagnie de Phalsbourg, and “Ville multi-strates”, by Chartier-Dalix and Ferrier for BNP. Paribas Real Estate, which was to span the ring road at Porte Maillot. The building permits were canceled on the grounds that they were “Likely to endanger public health”.
This outbreak of green fever has since been denounced as falling under a fleeting fashion whose architecture did not come out grown. This does not prevent architects, building owners, researchers in biology, from continuing to explore the potential of nature in the city and to test its limits. Three projects recently delivered in Paris and its inner suburbs show how, when the living is integrated into a coherent architectural thought instead of being used as an advertising argument, can do good to the city and to users. They further suggest that the material that is vegetation requires as much attention as maintenance, and constant adaptation to its own reactions.
A vertical greenhouse in Romainville
An exciting textbook case, the new market garden city of Romainville (Seine-Saint-Denis) is a vertical greenhouse that is erected in the Marcel-Cachin district, a rapidly changing territory that has been the subject of a rehabilitation project within the framework of the National Agency for Urban Renovation (ANRU), and where a large part of the population lives below the poverty line. The building, all in transparent glass, brings together two very thin Siamese volumes of inverted proportions – one is twice as high as the other, the other twice as long. Supported by a brick-red concrete structure, topped with small sloping roofs, it symbolically merges the codes of industrial architecture and the aesthetics of horticultural greenhouses.
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