Attention to sustainability, the use of resources and the life cycle, from the urban scale to that of the product. The environmental question is today the real challenge for architects and designers and multidisciplinarity is an (intrinsic) attitude necessary to face complexity. Stefano Boeri and Giorgio Donà tell us about it

Architect, politician and architectural theorist, Stefano Boeri opened the studio in Milan in 1993 which today includes projects all over the world.

While always promoting an integrated and multidisciplinary approach, it is with the Vertical Forest in the Isola district of Milan that Stefano Boeri Architetti consolidates a line of research: a model of densification in height of greenery in the city, capable of contributing not only to energy saving but also to regeneration of the environment and urban biodiversity.

“A house for trees that also houses humans and birds”, as defined by the Studio.

Research in the reduction of environmental impact embraces different scales, from urban planning to product design, with particular attention to specific local climatic and geo-productive conditions.

Stefano Boeri Interiors was born in 2018, founded with Giorgio Donà, in order to study solutions to new housing needs and reflect on the transformations in lifestyles and ways of living.

Always looking for that link between the natural and human spheres, "reevaluating our role as living beings on the planet".

Multidisciplinarity to find a different point of view in the investigation of built space.

How has design changed?

Stefano Boeri: "I believe that today the designer is faced with the same complexity and a similar interdisciplinary approach. The novelty, if anything, is the question > environmental, which involves a greater load of responsibility not only on the real impact of the project, but also on its symbolic value: on the life that will leave this space and on how it will be used.

The environmental question is an inevitable right and correct background.

As for multidisciplinarity, design has always been nourished - and in a ravenous way - by very different fields of knowledge. There is no hegemonic discipline, but rather some that, in certain eras, have been capable of asking questions and investigative approaches.

Today I would mention anthropology because, in this historical moment, it represents a turning point in the contemporary world".

Environmental well-being and reconnecting with nature and natural rhythms seem to be basic needs of both architecture and interior design and furnishing projects. What is your research on this?

Stefano Boeri: "For years we have been working on the idea that living nature, plant nature, should be present in our architecture and interiors, not so much as a decoration but as a fundamental component of our project.

This has brought with it the awareness that sustainability and the ecological transition do not only mean 'green', but also concern materials, the life cycle of products, their recycling, reuse and post-use conversion.

This means thinking about fundamental issues such as, for example, the water cycle and the use of the same resource at different scales.

We are developing Vertical Forests that are at the same time open, capable of absorbing solar and wind energy and that have multiple water management so as to minimize consumption.

We are experimenting with these integrated factors in arid territories, in areas of the world with extreme climatic conditions because, alas, Southern Europe is also approaching such conditions".

With the Bosco Verticale you have created a replicable model. What have you learned and what have you perfected in these years of applications in different contexts?

Stefano Boeri: "We have learned a great deal both from botany and from direct experience. The Bosco Verticale in Milan has been built for ten years now; about two years ago those of Eindhoven, Treviso and Huanggang were born in China.

So we have an interesting sampling that gives us back information.

And then we experimented with new ways: the Vertical Forest of Eindhoven is a social housing with rental homes accessible to all, in which we have worked to reduce manufacturing and maintenance costs".

In the next projects we plan to build wooden structures, applied above all to the slabs.

Using wood means reducing the production of carbon in the construction process, as well as 'storing' CO2 emissions. We are also working on the integration of solar and wind energy and on the application of special geothermal and water management systems.

During COP27 we presented the project for Dubai which will add hydroponic agriculture, integrating the cultivation of greenery with the water cycle and solar energy.

We are fortunate to have chosen a field of application that lends itself to being a formidable laboratory for experimentation.

On buildings and interior design. We often talk about flexible and adaptive furnishings and spaces in an urban dimension on a more local scale. Have you noticed a substantial change in the design of residential spaces?

Stefano Boeri: "Definitely. After the Covid-19, the need has grown for furniture and open spaces or ones that can be in contact with the outdoors. I

Greenery has been, and is, an element that characterizes loggias, balconies and even roofs: elements that are increasingly in demand by the real estate market and therefore very present in housing projects.

Various common residential spaces have been redesigned in a semi-private dimension: the entrance spaces, the courtyards or the roofs become, or return, places to live in a hybridization with public spaces on an urban scale .

Secondly, there was a reaction to the functionality of the furnishings. Remote working has led to the hypothesis of mutant furnishings, capable of changing their arrangement and function: from a table for diners to a work surface, to a modular and modular table; from static light to multifunctional luminaire, variable according to the hours and uses during the day.

There is much more attention to flexibility and modularity. Another design trend is that of materials: we try to use plastic only if it is necessary and if it is recycled, wood becomes a basic component and the end of life of the products is planned".

Giorgio Donà, tell us about the new Chiglia table for Marmo Arredo. How does it represent the requests for sustainability, durability and flexibility increasingly requested by the contemporary market?

Giorgio Donà: "Keil is the synthesis of durability due to the very nature of the materials from which it is made, of flexibility due to the technique with which the elements meet and sustainability in the ethical choice of both recycled and recyclable materials – which can therefore be reintegrated into the production process – and surfaces such as, for example, technical quartz, which has a post-consumer composition and raw materials of natural origin .

The design of the marble top - or of technical quartz present in the range - is the result of the encounter between shapes, lines and the skilful ability to transform volumes and surfaces typical of Marble Furniture, manufacturer of the collection.

The material of which the table is made - in its various shapes and sizes - instead by its nature wants to become an expression of elegance and durability.

Keel is a game of opposites, the search for balance between statics, aesthetics and functionality: it rests and floats on two glass supports with a broken shape, without the aid of glues or mechanical systems, but in perfect balance of weights and measures. And it expresses the meeting point between experimentation and tradition, discipline and exploration.