This Building Will Suck Up Smog Like It Was A Forest

The latest air-purifying building is brought to you by 9,000 square meters of photocatalytic concrete.

Buildings are capable of a lot more than simply covering our heads. They can collect enough rainwater to last a 100-day drought. They can run on algae. And some can also clean smog.


One of the latest designs in the latter category comes by way of Milan, which will host a universal exposition dedicated to feeding a planet with dwindling resources. And to serve an impressive 20 million expected visitors, the architects of the building created specially for the exposition decided the structure should riff on the theme.

The Italian Pavilion won’t exactly feed its visitors, but it will nourish their air supply.

With 9,000 square meters of photocatalytic concrete–a type of material that breaks down nitric and nitrogen oxides when exposed to sunlight–the façade of the building will act as a giant smog filter. It’s a similar idea to the University of Sheffield’s smog poem, which is a giant slab on the side of a building that eats up pollution as it expounds on the virtues of air quality. The Italian Pavilion also closely resembles a take on the Torre de Especialidades, a 100-meter-long wall attached to a Mexico City hospital that uses a honeycomb of special material to clean the surrounding air.

According to Nemesi & Partners, the architectural firm responsible for the design, the Italian Pavilion was modeled on the image of a petrified forest. “Palazzo Italia is inspired by a ‘natural architecture’ in which the branched structure of the outer casing, thanks to intertwined lines, generates alternations of light and shadow, empty and full spaces, giving rise to a scenario reminiscent of the works of Land Art,” explained Nemesi & Partners spokeswoman, Federica Provaroni, in an email. The firm also collaborated with engineers Proger and BMS Progetti, as well as Sapienza University of Rome professor Livio de Santoli, who focuses on the architecture of energy sustainability.

Expanding on the forest theme, the building will also feature an ambitious canopy. The roof consists of a miniature solar farm, a set of solar panels that will generate energy for the building’s interior during the day.


About the author

Sydney Brownstone is a Seattle-based former staff writer at Co.Exist. She lives in a Brooklyn apartment with windows that don’t quite open, and covers environment, health, and data.