Lonely Planet Writer

New 'sponge mountain' could combat pollution in Turin

An Italian architect has come up with a novel idea to combat climate change by constructing an artificial mountain in the city of Turin that would absorb carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere.

Italian architect Angelo Renna has proposed an artificial mountain to absorb CO2. Image by Angelo Renna / SUCCESS

Turin, Italy’s car manufacturing capital, is embracing “green architecture”. In 2012, it introduced ’25 Verde’, an apartment complex designed by Luciano Pia that looks like a jungle or urban oasis. The building incorporates more than 200 trees and many more plants which reportedly filter about 200,000 litres of carbon dioxide from the air every hour after dark, providing a healthy, sustainable environment for its residents.

Now Amsterdam-based architect and landscape designer Angelo Renna has proposed a new “green landmark” for the centre of the city. He’s designed a giant sponge mountain to absorb carbon dioxide emissions from the air. Reaching 90 meters high, the artificial mountain would be made from soil excavated from the construction site of the railway tunnel connecting Turin to Lyon in France. It would also serve as an urban park for the city’s residents.

Angelo Renna’s ‘Sponge Mountain’ would also act as an urban park. Image by Angelo Renna / SUCCESS

Renna developed the concept of ‘Sponge Mountain’ for SUCCESS, a project run by the UK Engineering and Physical Research Council (EPSRC) at Newcastle University. The aim of the project is to investigate practical designs for urban soil that would act as a carbon sink, trapping carbon dioxide and supporting ecosystems. Renna told Lonely Planet that it’s estimated that six million tons of soil will be excavated to complete the high-speed railway line between Turin and Lyon. “It is an incredible amount of waste,” he said. “Hence the idea to reuse the soil excavated to construct [the mountain]. The top layers of soil (10-15 centimetres) is a mixture of sand and concrete and other different types of soils which have the capacity to sequester carbon dioxide in an inorganic form.”

View of Turin with the Mole Antonelliana and the Alps. Image by Getty

Turin is a city blessed with a rich architectural heritage and filled with wide, tree-lined streets but it’s air pollution is among the worst in Europe. According to a recent World Health Organisation report, the city’s air has a particulate matter concentration of 39 micrograms of per cubic metre. It’s made worse by the city’s low-lying, geographical location in the Po Valley. In December 2017, the city attempted to combat air pollution by introducing temporary traffic bans.

See more of Angelo Renna’s work here.