International design and innovation firm Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) has won first place in the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group’s international competition with VITAE, a new research center in Milan that will be covered in a 650-foot-long urban vineyard. The vegetation is remarkable not only for its sheer size, but also for its use in a publicly accessible footpath that will link the street level to the rooftop. The building was developed for real estate group Convivio and was created in a team with the consortium Habitech as environmental experts.

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Once complete, VITAE will transform a formerly vacant, post-industrial lot in via Serio in the south of Milan into a mixed-use development that includes a farm-to-table restaurant, high-tech offices, facilities for the leading molecular and oncology research center ICOM, guest rooms for international researchers and more than 5,000 square meters of public space. Inspired by biophilic design, the architects created a vegetated pedestrian path with a vine-covered pergola that will ascend the side of the building and provide visitors the chance to see terraces and greenhouses for urban farming and hydroponic cultivation. This “green spiral” inspired the project’s name, VITAE, which means “life” in Latin and “vine” in Italian.

sloped garden on the side of a building

“VITAE tries to address humankind’s innate ‘biophilia,’ as formulated by the great American biologist Edward O. Wilson,” said Saverio Panata, partner at CRA and project manager of VITAE. “We are talking about the natural tendency of our species to seek our happiness through immersion in nature. Thanks to new technologies, it is now possible to achieve this goal even in the heart of the city — this is particularly relevant in a building that is devoted to scientific research.”

Related: CRA grows a sustainable pavilion out of mushrooms in just 6 weeks

rendering of people tending to plants

C40’s Reinventing Cities competition recognized VITAE as the winner for its promotion of carbon-neutral and resilient urban regeneration as well as for its adaptive reuse aspect. Construction on CRA’s project is slated to begin construction in late 2019.

+ Carlo Ratti Associati

Images via Carlo Ratti Associati