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Vertical Gardens: The Organic Wallpaper
Sarah Rich, 3 Jan 07
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A couple of years ago, Dawn wrote a brief survey of the widening intersection of art, building, horticulture and environmentalism. Since that time, numerous fantastic concepts, designs and urban interventions have brought greenery to public and residential spaces in innovative ways.

Tokyo-based PingMag recently interviewed Patrick Blanc about his Vertical Gardens, some of the most dramatic, large-scale green facades around. He could rightfully be called a landscape "starchitect," the likes of Gehry or Holl, with some installations in glamorous locales like Girbaud in Paris, a fashion show for Jean-Paul Gaultier, and soon a skyscraper in Kuala Lumpur and the Doha Office Tower in Qatar.

Blanc describes the materials and building process for his structures, which brings up the commonly encountered conflict of artistic intention and actual practice. The vertical gardens are made with PVC sheets -- PVC (polyvinyl chloride) being an extremely versatile and common material that comes under extreme criticism for being fossil fuel-intensive, chlorine-heavy, non-recyclable and responsible for dioxin releases.

The Vertical Garden is composed of three parts: a metal frame, a PVC layer and felt. The metal frame is hung on a wall or can be self-standing. It provides an air layer acting as a very efficient thermic and phonic isolation system. A 1cm thick PVC sheet is then riveted on the metal frame. This layer brings rigidity to the whole structure and makes it waterproof. After that comes a felt layer made of polyamide that is stapled on the PVC. This felt is corrosion-resistant and its high capillarity allows a homogeneous water distribution. The roots are now growing on this felt.
Watering is provided from the top with the tap water being supplemented with nutrients. The process of watering and fertilisation is automated. The whole weight of the ‘Vertical Garden’, including plants and metal frame, is lower than 30 kg per square meter. Thus the Vertical Garden can be implemented on any wall without any size or limitation of height.

That factor aside, Blanc's process is quite scientific and deeply researched. He conducts studies in tropical areas, primarily on "understory" plants which receive minimal sunlight beneath the rainforest canopy, and can thus be presumed to grow in humid indoor areas where sunlight is limited. He figures out which species will thrive in the environment for which he's commissioned to design, then configures the garden such that it's self-sufficient, requiring only quarterly maintenance.

So far, I've not heard about this kind of approach to greenery achieving traction on an average residential scale (and by average I mean in terms of cost as well as size). Given that most people just use potted plants inside, it doesn't seem like a particularly necessary addition to one's home, though it would be a great decorative strategy and I'd love to hear if anyone's done it DIY-style. In more institutional and commercial settings, a giant wall of ferns and succulents can do wonders as a natural air filtration system and a general atmosphere improver and mood-enhancer. Any botanists want to come rig a vertical garden at the Worldchanging offices?

via; also linked

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Ask and ye shall recieve... There's a Canadian company called Elevated Landscape Technologies that has sells kits for creating "living walls" --- nothing so extensive as what you've covered here, but they strike me as decent decorative fixtures or (for the larger walls) office dividers. I can't say how well they work myself, though I'd love to pick one up to play with after I get out of grad school.

ELT Living Wall website:
Original post at Treehugger:

In general, Treehugger ( is a good place to watch for this kind of stuff --- they've had at least three posts over the last year hitting on this topic from a residential/small commercial perspective, normally with links to the products they're discussing.

Posted by: Nathan Acks on 4 Jan 07

great article - this is a real solution to start bringing in wildlife habitat back into our cities rather than a them and us divide which mainstream architects today are perpetuating. Go a few steps further and add in all the environmental benefits of planted roofing (better insulation and so less air conditioning) and the vision is one of truly green cities.

Posted by: al scott on 4 Jan 07

This is very nice! There are a Swedish company working with this kind of green gardens as well. Using techniques that are also used in space stations. Check it out at

Posted by: David Carlson on 4 Jan 07

An PVC alternative, as with low-slope roofs, might be thermoplastic olefin or polyolefin (TPO) membranes. My guess is that with these installations, cost isn't an issue.

Posted by: David Foley on 4 Jan 07

Those of you in NYC can go to see Patrick Blanc's vegetal wall in the "Marithé et François Girbaud" store at 47 Wooster Street, in Soho (between Canal and Spring)

Posted by: clare Miflin on 4 Jan 07

Is anyone aware of this sort of technique being used to grow any type of produce for food in urban areas?


Posted by: Dave Wortman on 4 Jan 07

This is incredible. Imagine the increase in productivity and staff morale if there was one of these walls in every office accross the country?

The only concern I have is the system's use of PVC. See "The Poison Plastic"

Is there not some other material to use?


Posted by: Mike Marshall on 6 Jan 07

Patrick Blanc’s vertical garden is a great idea and adds a lot of greenery without taking up floor space in buildings. The garden doesn’t seem like it needs a lot to be built, which, hopefully, would make more management companies turn to it for their buildings.

I noticed some comments complaining about the use of PVC sheets, even though it is considered a “green? building material. Sarah Rich wrote that PVC has come under pressure recently for being fossil fuel intensive, but it actually uses less energy than its alternatives, and life-cycle studies show that it offers the same, if not more, environmental benefits.

Any other material would likely be more costly and not work as well, which in turn could dissuade building owners from even considering vertical gardens in their lobbies – which would be such a shame.

Posted by: Rachna Sethi on 11 Jan 07

Check out the Austrian Architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser who was putting vegetation into and onto buildings years ago - He Died in 2000. Check out images here:

Posted by: Greer Taylor on 17 Jan 07

This is interesting. Years back when an earthquake destroyed indigenous communities in the Cordilleras, I started weaving in the handlooms all the dried leaves, petrified woods, roots that I found in the riverbanks. Some visitors saw it and someone got it. Then a foreign artist improved it and use expensive raw materials with leather. I still have my handlooms. Interested?

Posted by: Julia D Senga on 19 Jan 07



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