Leading architect honoured with European award for his work to improve air quality in urban environments

Stefano Boeri — Italian architect, urban planner and academic — has been honoured with the 2023 European Lung Foundation (ELF) Award for his inspirational work to improve air quality in urban environments. The award recognises individuals, groups or organisations who have made an outstanding contribution to the service of human health in the respiratory field.  

The award was presented during this year’s European Respiratory Society’s International Congress, 9-13 September, 2023.  

Stefano Boeri’s designs integrate living nature into urban environment: several international studies have shown that living and working closely connected with trees and plants can lead to reduced stress levels and improved physical and mental health, as well as improved air quality with consequent positive impact on lung health 

Among the main opinion leaders in the climate change debate in the field of international architecture, in 2017 Stefano Boeri participated in the Commonwealth Regenerative Development to Reverse Climate Change program; he is co-chair of the scientific committee of the World Forum on Urban Forests (Mantua, 2018 and Washington 2023) and, on the occasion of the UN Climate Action Summit 2019, he presented in New York the Green Urban Oases project, together with FAO, C40 and other international research institutes.  

Stefano Boeri is President of the Scientific Committee of Forestami, the project aimed at planting 3 million trees in the metropolitan area of Milan by 2030. The project aims to clean the air, improve living conditions in the wider area of the city of Milan, and counter the effects of climate change, through the reduction of the “heat island” effect and the mitigation of temperatures in cities. The mission is the most effective, economical and engaging way to slow down global warming, reduce energy consumption and clean the air to improve the well-being of citizens. The project will increase greenery in streets, squares and courtyards, as well as on rooftops and on the fronts of homes.

Architect of the Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest), built in Milan in 2014, Stefano Boeri’s practice ranges from urban planning to architecture. Stefano Boeri’s Vertical Forests are designed to provide a high level of biodiversity in densely populated areas, integrating living nature into architecture. The presence of plants and trees contributes to reduce air pollution and improve air quality, which can have significant health benefits, particularly for people who live in cities and are exposed to high levels of pollution. Stefano Boeri Architetti is currently working in implementing urban forestry strategies around the world, with Vertical Forests in the Netherlands – with the first Vertical Forest for social housing built in Eindhoven in 2021 and Wonderwoods Vertical Forest under construction in Utrecht – and, in Milan, the new Policlinico hospital, that will host a 6,000 sqm garden for therapeutical use on its rooftop. In addition to the architecture design activity, Stefano Boeri Architetti’s work include urban regeneration and master plans for metropolises and large cities, including Geneva, Tirana, Cancun, Cairo and in Italy Milan, Genoa, Cagliari, Naples, Padua, Taranto and many others. 

Stefano Boeri’s projects have inspired a new generation of architects and designers to prioritize environmental sustainability and social responsibility in their work.  

ELF Chair, Kjeld Hansen, commended the work of Stefano Boeri: “We are delighted to honour Stefano Boeri with our annual award. His work represents an innovative and sustainable approach to architecture and urban planning. By taking innovative strides in the field and inspiring other architects, his work that has the potential to benefit the environment and health and well-being of generations to come.”  

Stefano Boeri commented:  

“I am happy and proud of this important award. Green offers extraordinary benefits, it helps to mitigate urban heat – making cities more livable – and to absorb CO2 and fine particles, making cities and our lungs healthier; for this reason, for over 20 years, we have been working to develop ideas and projects aimed at multiplying trees and forests in urban areas. Our “Green Obsession” is a planning commitment and at the same time an aspiration that we would like to share with anyone who looks with courage and optimism at the future of our cities and the quality of life of all citizens.”  

Notes to editors: 

For further information about the award, please contact ELF Director, Dr Pippa Powell:  

 About the ELF Award  

Established in 2001, the ELF Award recognises people making an impact on respiratory public health. Previous awardees have included, former Mayor of New York, Michael Rubens Bloomberg, Norweigan Olympic rowing champion, Olaf Tufte and the World Health Organization.  

The European Lung Foundation (ELF) was founded by the European Respiratory Society (ERS) in 2000 with the aim of bringing together patients and the public with respiratory professionals to positively influence lung health. ELF works to communicate the latest developments in lung health to people with lung conditions, the public, policymakers and the media. ELF also gives people with lung diseases and the general public the opportunity to influence lung health research and guidelines at the European level.

About Stefano Boeri

Stefano Boeri, architect and urban planner, is Full Professor of Urban Planning at Politecnico di Milano and Director of the Future City Lab at Tongji University in Shanghai. Stefano Boeri has been invited as a visiting professor to many international universities such as Harvard University Graduate School of Design, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam and the Academy of Architecture in Mendrisio. He is President of the Future of Cities Foundation, the Scientific Committee of Forestami (the urban forestry project in the Milan metropolitan area) and Triennale Milano. 

Among his books: Il territorio che cambia (Milan 1992); AAVV, Mutations (Barcelona 2001); Multiplicity, Use Uncertain States of Europe (Milan 2003); Biomilano: glossary of ideas for a metropolis of biodiversity (Milan 2011); L’anticittá (Bari 2011); A Vertical Forest (Milan 2015); La città scritta (Macerata 2016); Urbania (Bari 2021).  

Stefano Boeri is Founder of Stefano Boeri Architetti, architecture and urban planning practice based in Milan and with offices in Shanghai and Tirana. The studio’s activity and design approach, the subject of an international publication (“Green Obsession” Stefano Boeri Architetti, Actar, 2021), takes shape in the integration with different strategies, modes and scales, of living nature with architecture, reconnecting the natural and human spheres and re-evaluating our role as human beings on the planet. “Green Obsession,” was recently awarded by the United Nations with the UN SDGs Action Award, as it envisions sustainable cities and communities that prioritize good health and well-being while stepping up climate action through its creative approach to urban planning, ecological connectivity and urban forestry – meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.