Flying gardeners defy gravity to keep Milan’s vertical forest alive

By: Ben Anthony Horton

Massimo, Giovanni and Gilberto are not your ordinary gardeners. The three Italians are expert climbers and arboriculturists, merging their deep passion for vegetation with a serious head for heights. Once every three months, they abseil from the roof of Milan’s 110-meter vertical forest – a death-defying stunt which has earned them the nickname ‘the flying gardeners’. Floor by floor, they trim, prune and water the 21,000 trees, shrubs and perennials which call the building home.

The building’s vegetation converts an average of 19,958 kilograms of carbon each year, while mitigating noise pollution from the street-level traffic below. The high-rises are also entirely self-sufficient, using renewable energy from solar panels and filtered waste water to sustain the buildings’ plant life.

Maintaining this foliage ensures Bosco Verticale remains habitable for humans and wildlife alike. On top of the building’s 300 occupants, there is now a growing population of birdlife too. “Trees were the first tenants and moved here ten years ago,” adds Boeri, “but it has also started to host 20 different species of birds.”

Each apartment contains a balcony with a number of medium-sized trees, shrubs and climbing plants. In total, the foliage provides shelter and sustenance for an estimated 1,600 birds and butterflies.