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List Urban Solution

5 projects that will change city life for good


Words by Suzanna Knight

With more and more people joining the urban ranks, city planners, designers, architects and urban idealists are finding new ways to ensure our future cities grow in the right direction. These are 5 projects forever changing the city as we know it.

Seoul Skygarden, Seoul

What to do with an abandoned city overpass? You can leave it be, tear it down, use it for commercial purposes. Or you can turn it into an inner-city plant village. Dutch architects MVDRV converted an old 1970s Seoul overpass into a lush green 983-metre walkway, featuring 228 different species of plants and shrubs. Instead of an impractical eyesore, the overpass is now a park in which Seoul residents can enjoy 24,000 trees, plants and flowers.

Photo (and above) by Ossip van Duiven

Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farms, NYC

Urban farming is quickly gaining ground in cities across the world, and it’s all thanks to green pioneers like the people at Brooklyn Grange. In 2010, they built the world’s largest soil rooftop farm in just two weeks, expanding to a second location in the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 2012. Today, they grow 50,000 pounds of organic produce every year, inspiring and helping other aspiring farmers to green vacant urban spaces across the globe.

Find out how Brooklyn Grange is transforming the agricultural industry around the world.

Photo by Brooklyn Grange Farm

Santalaia, Bogota

Just imagine: you’re living in a tall apartment building in the middle of an eight million people South American city. Yet when you look out your window, it’s all plants. A pleasant and promising reality for the residents of the Santalaia building in Bogota. Created by botanist Ignacio Solano, this building is covered in 85,000 plants of many different species, making it the world’s largest vertical garden. Besides looking spectacular, the plant-covered building can produce enough oxygen for over 31,000 people each year and filters the harmful emissions of 745 cars.

Smog Free Tower, Beijing

Plants can do a lot to help clear cities of smog, but (unfortunately!) they’re not a one-stop magic solution. Luckily, there are people like artist and designer Daan Roosegaarde who are thinking of additional, innovative ways to create healthier city air. His Smog Free Project consists of various urban innovations made to reduce air pollution on a large scale. The Smog Free Ring, Smog Free Bicycle, and the Smog Free Tower are all on-going, experimental projects that, once proven to be effective, might change city life for good. One Smog Free Tower has already been constructed in Beijing, where, according to a study from the Eindhoven University of Technology, it removes around 60% of airborne particulate pollutants.

Photo by Studio Roosegaarde

Living Light, Rotterdam

Streetlights exist for our safety. Walking, biking and driving in the dark in a crowded city would be quite the challenge, but it can also be discouraging to think about the amount of energy that goes into lighting up our cities each night. Incubation programme alumni Living Light and their tech-partner Plant-E are making the first steps towards more sustainable street lighting. Using the microbial fuel cell technology that allows plants to generate electricity, the team is currently working with the city of Rotterdam to create mood lighting from plant-based electricity that will light up alongside people as they stroll through a city park.  

Visualisation by Living Light