Plywood Is the New Concrete: Eco Architecture on the Rise

Unless you've been hiding under a concrete slab for the past decade, you'll know that grey is out, and lush green pastures are very much in. In contrast with the consume-all waste-all culture of the 80s and 90s, these days we're beginning to take an enlightened approach towards the way our lives impact our environment. Here we look at architectural and design firms that are creating beautiful, sustainable structures across the world. This is eco architecture at its very best.

Our favourite eco-friendly, architectural feats from around the world

Bosco Verticale

Milan, Italy

Labelled as a 'vertical forest', these two residential towers were built in 2014 in the Isola district of Milan. Each tower houses over 2,000 plants, and the amount of new green land that this created exceeds 7,000 sq m; reducing CO2, smog and noise pollution in the area. Countless botanists and horticulturalists were consulted in the construction of the tower blocks, which create a wonderfully surreal Jack and the Beanstalk-like effect on the approaching civilian.


Paris, France

The brainchild of the activist-architect Michael Green, this 'plyscraper' plans to break conventions with its use of reinforced timber panels in a high-rise structure - the tallest of its kind. The use of timber would sequester 3,700 tonnes of CO2, while avoiding the carbon footprint caused by using concrete slabs. The vision incorporates a kind of social utopia too, with communities brought together in urban agricultural spaces, social housing and easy, sustainable travel connections.

Step Up on 5th

Santa Monica, California

The Step up on the 5th building holds 46 affordable apartments for the rehabilitation of homeless and mentally ill people in the area. It was built suited to the land so as to maximise on daylight and the natural breeze, which reduces the need for electricity and air conditioning by 50 per cent alone. All-natural flooring and insulation, as well as a myriad of other sustainable features, make this an uncompromisingly conscientious spot.

Cardboard Cathedral

Christchurch, New Zealand

The cheery façade of this church rose from the remains of the earthquake that devastated the Christchurch area in 2011. 'Disaster architect' Shigeru Ban brought in old shipping containers and reinforced cardboard to create the triangular structure, which serves the community's civic as well as religious requirements.


Hamburg, Germany

In a move that was supposedly as simple as a right click on SimCity, Hamburg decided to revitalise a whole riverside district; increasing the size of the city by 40 per cent. HafenCity's shiny new office buildings and perfectly planned urban landscapes are green to their core, with constructions like the Marco Polo tower, Der Spiegel's HQ and the Unilever building all pushing the boundaries of how a corporate office should look, function and take its responsibility to the community seriously.

Bushwick Inlet Park

Brooklyn, USA

Central Park 2.0, Bushwick Inlet provides multipurpose sports grounds, natural leafy greenery, beautiful waterside views, and thoughtful ethics. The building on its grounds has efficient tandem water heating/cooling systems, geothermal walls, solar power roofing and recycled rainwater irrigation.

Masdar City

Abu Dhabi

Not yet built, Abu Dhabi's government is providing the seed funds to create a city powered completely by renewable energy, aiming to lure forward-thinking citizens and companies to take residence inside its walls. Only electric and clean-energy vehicles will be allowed inside, and the whole street-plan is constructed to manipulate airflow, decrease temperatures and reduce the need for air conditioning. Construction of the headquarters for the International Renewable Energy Agency within the city began in 2013. There are also no light switches or water taps in the city, and old plantation palms will feature heavily as construction materials.

Namba Parks

Osaka, Japan

An oscillating jungle canyon crossed with a huge shopping mall, Osaka's huge multi-use space features shops, an undulating waterfall-riddled garden sloping up nine floors, and even room for private allotments for city-dwellers to grow vegetables.

Buk Museum of Art

Seoul, South Korea

A welcome addition to the hyperactive city that is Seoul, this gallery-cum-park space provides a peaceful oasis in the thriving residential area. From above, it looks like a shattered pane of green glass, as bright white walkways cut jaggedly across wide elevated areas of turf. Rooftop gardens filter rainwater, and insulate the museum below, which inside an array of cultural and educational exhibitions are available to the community.

This image is on holiday

Around Pavilion

Copenhagen, Denmark

On the grounds of a castle, two architects made use of both local resources and local young craftsmanship in building this beautiful multi-use pavilion. In traditional minimalist Scandi-style, the vertical lengths of blond Nordic pine allow the space to be flooded with light while remaining a loose, self-contained structural entity.

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