photograph by Alessio Mesiano/Flickr

Barely a month after opening, Milan’s Bosco Verticale has won the 2014 International Highrise Award, a biannual prize given by the City of Frankfurt and Deutsches Architekturmuseum. The jury called the towers ”a striking example of a symbiosis of architecture and nature,” and jury president Christoph Ingenhoven added that the project is “an expression of the human need for contact with nature.”

The towers were originally proposed in 2011 by architect Stefano Boeri as part of his “BioMilano: six ideas for a bio-diverse metropolis.” Bosco Verticale, which means “vertical forest,” comprises two 27-story luxury high-rise residential towers teeming with cantilevered balconies and planted with almost 900 trees and more than 2,000 shrubs and bushes. His firm describes the towers as “a model for a sustainable residential building, a project for metropolitan reforestation that contributes to the regeneration of the environment and urban biodiversity.”

photograph by lorenzoclick/Flickr

The towers are an important addition to Milan, which is one of the most polluted cities in Europe. In 2003, a study suggested that breathing the air there was as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Among other initiatives, the city is working on a huge environmental revitalization project called Metrobosto, which will “turn the existing green spaces around Milan into an enormous metropolitan lung, stretching the whole way round the city.”

Bosco Verticale’s extensive greenery provides apartment dwellers with shade in the summer and filtered sunlight in the winter, as well as cleaner air and reduced noise pollution. The building is also equipped with solar panels and a gray water recycling and irrigation system. In 2011, while the project was still under construction, Financial Times called it “the most exciting new tower in the world.”