A new idea of ​​the city: it's the Smart Forest City of Cancún

Over 350 species of plants and 557 square meters of surface for the Mexican metropolis-forest designed by the Stefano Boeri Architetti studio

Smart Forest City: Cancun
Cancún's Smart Forest City is expected to see the light of day in 2026 (Photo: The Big Picture)

Cancún, the popular resort town located on Mexico's Yucatán peninsula, is known for its Caribbean beaches and vibrant nightlife.

But this city, beloved by American and European tourists, is about to become famous for another very particular "attraction": an innovative Smart Forest City, planet and energy self-sufficient.

From the vision of Stefano Boeri (creator of the Bosco Verticale, always at the forefront of urban reforestation projects) a place is being born that more than a city, is a living organism, a warning for the urban spaces of the future.

Nature, but also tech, innovation but with an eye to the protection of biodiversity and attention to environmental challenges of our century. Welcome to the Smart Forest City of Cancun…

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Smart Forest City: nature and technology
The Smart Forest City is a puzzle of technological innovation and nature, which houses over 120.000 plants of 350 different species (Photo: Stefano Boeri Architetti)

A "green city" in the ancient land of the Maya

After the Bosco Verticale in Milan and the vertical urban forest in dubai (a project unveiled last year during the COP27 organized by the UN in Egypt), the Milanese studio has achieved another urban reforestation project.

With an extension of 557 hectares, the Smart Forest City of Cancún can accommodate up to 130.000 inhabitants.

Its metropolitan area hosts 362 hectares of luxuriant vegetation, where 120.000 plants belonging to 350 different varieties create a frame of biodiversity in which, however, thetechnological innovation green reigns supreme.

Natural and built spaces strike a perfect balance, with 'green' roofs and facades and extensive parks in areas that were previously earmarked for shopping centres.

The Smart Forest City is based on energy self-sufficiency and efficient use of water.

Deployed around the perimeter, the photovoltaic panels work in synergy with a system of interconnected water channels which are connected to an underground marine facility.

This state-of-the-art solution not only powers the city into sustainable way, but allows for a circular economy system around the water cycle.

A catchment dock and desalination tower receive the water, which then flows through a network of navigable canals to spray agricultural fields and distribute itself throughout the entire Cancún settlement.

"Cities consume 75 percent of the world's natural resources and are responsible for more than 70 percent of global CO2 emissions. Trees and forests, in continuous decline, absorb more than 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions generated by human activities every year", they claim by Studio Boeri Architetti.

"By increasing greenery in cities we can fight air pollution, reduce CO2 emissions and the heat island effect, and increase biodiversity. By doing so we would make our cities healthier, safer, more pleasant and more attractiveti".

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Smart Forest City: circular economy
The forest-city of Cancún foresees a circular economy system around the water cycle, which is desalinated and recycled (Photo: Stefano Boeri Architetti)

Sustainable mobility, ecotourism, research and innovation

In the Smart Forest City, which should see the light in 2026, the noise of combustion engines gives way to electric "silence"..

The Mexican city imagines a scenario in which residents and visitors leave their combustion vehicles at the gates of the settlement, to embrace a system of electric and semi-automatic internal mobility, thanks to the collaboration with the group MIC – mobility in chain.

An approach that not only reduces theair pollution, but promotes a quieter, more peaceful and environmentally and citizen-friendly urban experience. A sort of calm oasis, which is also expected to attract tourists eager for a break from the bustling Cancun scene. 

There will also be room for research. A pole fortechnological innovation it will host world-renowned researchers, universities, organizations and institutes who are working to address crucial challenges. From astrophysics to coral reef restoration, from agriculture to sustainable mobility, the Smart Forest City aims to become a crossroads of eco-friendly solutions.

It is not about abstract discourses: rather, a pragmatic approach to the reduction ofenvironmental impact, also based on research, education, especially female empowerment, a reduction in energy demand and waste production. Through the pillars of the "four Rs" (reduction, repair, reuse and recycling) the Smart Forest City of Cancún looks to the future with confidence. 

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Le forest cities invite us to think of a new model for our cities to make them healthier and more livable (Photo: The Big Picture)

Are “forest cities” the cities of the future?

A natural symbiosis between the city and the natural habitat, exploiting its benefits rather than destroying it. This is, in a nutshell, theessence of “forest cities”, which combine the urban infrastructure with the vegetation of the local ecosystem.

It's difficult – though desirable – to say whether this will look like city ​​of the future. In fact, forest-cities require significant investments and extremely detailed planning.

In addition to the Cancún project, Stefano Boeri Architetti has created a Forest City in China, north of Liuzhou. An almost surreal place, where offices, houses, hotels, hospitals and schools are almost entirely covered by plants and trees and absorb 10.000 tons of CO2 and 57 tons of fine dust every year.

One thing is certain: our cities must change, for our good and that of the planet that hosts us. While turning any city into a forest city might be a tough challenge, making our metropolises more sustainable is a imperative step.

And fight theair pollution through the promotion of green mobility, increase green spaces and invest in infrastructure that helps mitigate heat islands, such as eco-friendly flooring Solid Earthcould be a start. 

Forest-cities teach us that change is not only possible, but essential for living in harmony with thenatural environment. And perhaps a future is finally on the horizon in which greenery is not just a luxury, but a necessity that represents the very foundations of city ​​of tomorrow.

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Smart Forest City: sustainable mobility
Sustainable electric mobility will also be a crucial element of the Smart Forest City (Photo: Stefano Bori Architetti)