Penda
Stunning 'Tree Tower' Brings Nature To Urban Toronto High-Rise

I’ve always said that if I was to ever become mayor of a city, I would pass an ordinance that every building must have rooftop trees. Apparently, I wasn’t alone in my sentiment: multiple building and neighborhood designs have made the news lately for their inclusion of living forests, hanging plants, and balcony trees.

The latest of these efforts is the “Toronto Tree Tower,” a proposed 18-story, mixed-use high-rise with staggered balconies loosely resembling tree branches that hold trees and other vegetation while offering residents breathtaking views of the city.

The architecture firm behind the vision is Penda, which has offices in Austria and China. That firm collaborated with Canadian ecological building company Tmber to create the design, which will look like an enormous tree in the middle of Toronto.

Cities can provide the unlikeliest green spaces. 

The Toronto Tree Tower draws on inspiration from Habitat 67, an apartment building design 50 years ago in Montreal that offers residents access to gardens, fresh air, and cleverly designed dwellings. For the Toronto Tree Tower, trees would be planted on every outdoor terrace, offering shade, privacy and food via herb and vegetable gardens. The building’s exterior would be comprised of cross-laminated timber (CLT) and wooden façade panels for a tree(house)-like appearance. CLT is significantly more eco-friendly than traditional wood, meaning fewer greenhouse gases and more financial backing by the Canadian government. 

The plan is for each unit to be prefabricated off-site, then brought to the building and stacked by crane onto the trunk-like central tower. That will cut down on disruption to city residents, and means the building itself will be put together far more efficiently than working on-site from the ground up. In addition to apartments, the Toronto Tree Tower would have a daycare center for children, café, and community workshops.

Who says a metropolis must be all concrete and steel? 

“Our cities are an assembly of steel, concrete and glass,” Penda partner Chris Precht said, according to Culture Trip. “If you walk through the city and suddenly see a tower made of wood and plants, it will create an interesting contrast. The warm, natural appearance of wood and the plants growing on its facade bring the building to life and that could be a model for environmental friendly developments and sustainable extensions of our urban landscape.”

Penda’s other co-partner, Dayong Sun, says it’s not just in the construction of the thing: To be a responsible builder, one must consider a building’s eventual demise, as well.

“Elements of a building like wires and copper will be a scarce resources in future,” he continued. “To demolish a tower in an conventional way, buries most valuable elements of a building. To think about down-constructing a tower secures for a sustainable life-cycle of a building.”

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