Location: Turin, Italy
Architect: Luciano Pia
The famed “tree apartments” of Turin, Italy, are the brainchild of Luciano Pia, an Italian architect who believes bold architecture can move past the drawing board. His vision was a city block entirely dominated by a vertical garden, one animated by the lush green sway of leaves and the busy movement of people within the five stories of its framework and rooftops. The architect felt the neighborhood originally suffered from a severe lack of greenery, and that this project was his opportunity to turn the situation around in one grand gesture.
Part of the project’s success as a freestanding building is its promise of a sustainable conception for every imaginable element. Large pockets lining the perimeters of the walkways accommodate the enormous pots for the roughly 150 deciduous trees that give this apartment its unique appearance. In addition to providing an abundance of oxygen to the neighborhood, the trees also provide a natural heating and cooling system for the building’s 63 apartment units: in the summer, their leaves provide reliable shade, while in the winter their absence allows for sunlight.
Because the trees were placed in the complex at different levels of maturity, the building as a whole never appears the same way twice. The tree-shaped steel brackets that act as barricades and structure for the outside walkways are a humorous strategy toward further communicating the organic theme of the building. The branches of the real trees sometimes get confused with the fake ones of the brackets, a playful interaction between the natural and the artificial that was encouraged by Pia.
The seemingly chaotic placement of the potted trees combined with the loose organization of the units themselves causes many to associate the apartment complex with the classic treehouse, that makeshift private oasis that seems to define the carefree lifestyle of childhood. The top floor of the building is adorned with a series of green roofs unified by catwalks, and several walkways are carved out of a large square of lush greenery in the central courtyard of the building. Both have proven to be spaces for the residents to relax and imagine their home is truly in the middle of a forest.
In the architect’s words, “You can dream of a house or live in a dream!”