Updated: Sep 18, 2020
A certain, very famous frog puppet once lamented about how difficult it is being green. He might not have been talking about sustainability, urban planning, or an eco-friendly lifestyle; but perhaps if he saw how lush these living wall systems are, he could have sung a happier tune.
Living walls aren’t a brand new concept. As architecture and design continuously shift focus to fresh air and sustainability, they are an easy pivot toward a fantastic execution. Plants native to the area thrive, a wholly unique aesthetic is curated, and residents and passersby alike get to enjoy the oxygen and natural aromas.
Watching building planners incorporate living walls both outdoors and indoors is spectacular. And they’re doing it all over the world.
1. Australia’s One Central Park, completed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel
Images courtesy of Frasers Property Australia and Sekisui House Australia.
Over 250 native Australian plants and flowers make up the living walls existing in perfect symbiosis with One Central Park’s massive facade. At over 50 meters high, it is the tallest vertical garden in the world. The gardens do not need to use soil. As a result, extra weight is avoided and the structural integrity of the building is never compromised. They subsist on light, carbon dioxide water, and nutrients which are fed mechanically. The result is a magnificent and laborious work on display for Sydney residents to admire for miles around.
2. Canada’s Semiahmoo Public Library & RCMP Facility, completed by Green Over Grey
Images courtesy of Green Over Grey.
At first glance, one would not immediately think this verdant living wall would be found in a small suburb of Vancouver. Or that it would adorn the library and neighboring police facility! Once a 3000 square foot blank facade, the wall is now a garden of over 10,000 individual plants and 120 different species. It breathes and photosynthesizes, and receives nutrients via a soil-free technology that mimics capillary action. As a result, the surrounding ecosystem is in perfect balance and harmony, allowing air purification and enriching biodiversity.
3. The Rubens at the Palace Hotel in London, completed by Green Roof Consultancy
Images courtesy of Green Roof Consultancy and Treebox.
The largest living wall in London is composed of 16 tons of soil and over 10,000 plants. The Palace Hotel in Victoria boasts this impressive wonder. Designed to curb urban flooding, the building uses specialized water storage tanks that also absorb rain. The plants in turn purify the air, help quell noise, insulate properly, and improve the overall aesthetic of the building. The “green appeal” of the area is elevated and it is an undeniable attraction.
4. São Paulo’s TGS House, completed by Laercio Fabiano Arquitetura
Images courtesy of Daniel Santo.
On a smaller scale, this beautiful and functional home in Brazil displays how easy it is to integrate a living wall into a residential space. The dynamic open-air concept allows for flow in between rooms, as well as fostering interaction among those living in the house. Wood, concrete, metal, and greenery all come together to marry and evoke a luscious, unique atmosphere. The plant wall serves simultaneously as an art piece, air purifier, and living being.
5. The Writer’s Shed in Australia, completed by Matt Gibson Architecture
Images courtesy of Shannon McGrath.
This idyllic retreat in Australia goes beyond a living wall--it can easily be called a living structure. The Shed serves exactly as its name says, as a creative getaway for the writer who needs that burst of solo inspiration. It is hidden in a residential garden in a small suburb of Melbourne. The building is covered in both Boston ivy and native plantings, making it conducive to the surrounding environment. The mix of light, air, and surrounding greenery make for an unforgettable home away from home.
Bigger, Better, Greener
The next great living walls are being planted and built with the idea that it truly does pay off being green. Sustainability in tourism, residence, and commercial spaces is at the forefront of every architecture and design firm. The inherent value placed on preserving the earth and its biodiversity has only ramped up as cities expand and populations grow.