(Image: Boeri Studio)
This is a rendering of two towers that are currently under construction in central Milan, in Italy.
The development is called Bosco Verticale, which translates as "Vertical Forest," and yes, those are trees and shrubs all over the outside of the building.
According to The Atlantic Cities, the trees are meant to serve a number of purposes: filtering dust, absorbing carbon dioxide, reducing urban heat, conserving energy, and making the city more environmentally friendly.
Italian architects aren't the only ones who are experimenting with skyscraper forests.
There are several other similar projects in the works, including six "farmscrapers" in one Chinese province, a 70-floor commercial high rise called Urban Forest elsewhere in China, and the 26-storey EDITT Tower in Singapore, which will be half-covered with greenery.
But is a vertical forest a realistic idea? It certainly looks different - and NPR's Robert Krulwich is convinced the trees and shrubs will revolutionize the way we think about tall buildings:
"They are pioneers, new neighbours being asked to live with us in the sky. They'll take in the CO2 and breathe out oxygen. We'll take in the oxygen and breathe out CO2. We'll water them. They'll aerate us. It's a whole new neighbourhood. Yes, we may stumble as we rise, but rise we shall. These towers in Milan will lead the way."
(Image: Boeri Studio)
But Krulwich also points out that Tim De Chant, tree lover, blogger, and senior digital editor at NOVA, has already said that this concept won't work as advertised.
De Chant wrote a blog post titled "Can we please stop drawing trees on top of skyscrapers?" He's concerned that architects may know a lot more about buildings than they do about trees.
Here's why he says trees probably won't survive on a skyscraper:
"There are plenty of scientific reasons why skyscrapers don't - and probably won't - have trees, at least not to the heights which many architects propose. Life sucks up there. For you, for me, for trees, and just about everything else except peregrine falcons.
It's hot, cold, windy, the rain lashes at you, and the snow and sleet pelt you at high velocity. Life for city trees is hard enough on the ground. I can't imagine what it's like at 500 feet, where nearly every climate variable is more extreme than at street level."
In a separate post, De Chant also says that, according to the architect, the cost of adding trees to Bosco Verticale is about $4.25 million, which gets you the equivalent of 2.5 acres of greenery.
That amount of money, he says, "could restore [at least] 2,125 acres, or about 850 hectares, of forest" on the ground.
At this point, there's no way to know how well these buildings will work.
But once the Bosco Verticale is actually done, we may get a better idea of how effective and practical it is to put a forest on a skyscraper.