Greenery isn’t just for roofs anymore – verdant carpets of moss, vines, grass and more bring lush life to vertical surfaces indoors and out through framed art installations, living walls, moss graffiti and even curtains of vegetation. Such ‘green walls’ take the technology and benefits of green roofs and make it even more visually appealing, softening bare concrete and providing shade, humidity and oxygen.
In the Netherlands, architects accept the possibility that their city could eventually be taken over by the water that surrounds it – and they’re working on sustainable solutions that work with, not against, nature. If water takes over the city, so be it – residents could be living in dainty little floating homes made from recycled polystyrene hamburger clamshells, coffee cups and packing material and covered in vegetation.
The world’s largest green wall was constructed for Japan’s Aichi Expo in 2005, a massive ‘bio-lung’ measuring 150 meters long and 12 meters high. The wall consisted of hemp canvas called ‘kenaf’, with pockets planted with sedum, vines and flowers. It was named ‘bio-lung’ to convey the message that such expanses of vertical vegetation can function as a huge, breathing lung to purify the air in urban environments.
The largest living wall in North America was recently completed at One PNC Plaza in Pittsburgh, the headquarters of PNC Bank. The 2,380 square-foot living wall has 602 2′x2′ modular panels, each one containing 24 plants for a grand total of 14,448 plants. The greenery, complete with PNC logo, covers a vast section of the exterior wall of this 30-story building. Since its installation, studies have shown that the south-facing wall is 25% cooler behind the green wall than ambient temperatures.
Architects Thomas and Javier Garcia Píriz Castilian Pulido of CUAC Architecture envisioned a vast stretch of latticed greenery for the east and south sides of the façade of the College of Architecture at Cordoba, Spain. The architects imagine the green wall as a continuation of the existing building’s Art Noveau theme, placing an emphasis on the inclusion of nature in public spaces.
At the new Whole Foods in Vancouver, a colorful wall of plants embellishes the north-facing wall of the building, adding to the city’s long list of greenery-adorned architecture. The wall is planted with native plants like huckleberry, euonymus, and licorice fern, which were individually placed within self-contained soil soil panels and attached to the side of the building.
Flora Grubb Gardens in San Francisco is a popular destination for fans of vertical greenery thanks to the talents of Kevin Smith, who creates stunning vertical gardens such as this one, made with succulents. Smith and partner, Flora Grubb – who owns the garden shop – also created a vertical tillandsia garden for the Bardessono Hotel.
Cordoba, Spain is a city famous for its beautiful courtyards, called ‘patios Cordobeses’. Inside the gates of each courtyard, exterior walls are covered in wall-hanging planters, adding color and interest to what would otherwise be blank expanses of white. Each spring, private courtyards are opened to the public as homeowners compete with their neighbors for the best floral display. This one, pictured, won in 2007.
Some critics of popular vertical greenery designs argue that such gardens aren’t being used to their maximum potential unless they’re edible. This design, by Italian company ReviPlant, is a vertical gardening system that takes vegetable gardens off the ground, transforming them into portable green walls that can be used to cover building facades.
The Campbell’s Soup Company teamed up with Green Living Technologies LLC to create a living wall of the tomatoes grown for the company’s iconic soup in Harlem, New York. This “edible” food-producing wall brings fresh, pesticide-free produce to an area that lacks space for traditional horizontal gardens.
Vertical greenery doesn’t have to take up an entire wall. Moss graffiti is a form of wall vegetation that serves a purely decorative purpose, with designs ‘painted’ onto wall surfaces using a mixture of biodegradable ingredients that allow the moss to grow. Artist Anna Garforth experiments with poetry, while Edina Tokodi is responsible for popular New York City installations on concrete columns and other surfaces.
In Anjo City, Japan, a novel solution for cooling hot concrete buildings was to construct ‘curtains’ of greenery that filter both the sun and the air. Five nets cover the eastern side of a government building, each measuring 16 meters long and six meters wide. Planters at the base allow morning glories, bitter gourds, loofah and other plants to climb the nets, offering privacy on the balconies.
Inadvertent Vertical Greenery at Abandoned Shipyard
Not all vertical greenery is intentional – just take a drive through the Kudzu vine-covered South, or enter an old abandoned building taken over by trees and vines. This former glass factory and shipyard in Imari harbour in the Saga prefecture of Japan has been almost entirely taken back by nature, and shows that accidental vertical vegetation can be just as beautiful as that which is planned.
Green Pockets, interlocking recycled ceramic tiles with built-in planters designed by Maruja Fuentes, turn vertical greenery into a sort of interactive art project that allows users to create wallscapes in virtually any kind of pattern, from free-flowing waves to checkerboards. The small planters make it easy to decorate a wall with herbs, flowers or other plants and easily change out the plants as desired.
Brooklyn, New York got its first living wall in 2008 with the simple yet charming installation at Oulu Bar & EcoLounge in Williamsburg. The LEED-gold certified building and wall were both designed by Evangeline Dennie, with the modern warm wood façade of the building perfectly complementing the greenery for an eye-catching effect.
There’s nothing cold and sterile about the Changi Airport of Singapore, which is home to a beautiful five-story wall of vines. Located in the baggage pick-up area, this self-watering 300-meter-wide vertical wall of vegetation brings some much-needed fresh air into a large, densely populated building.