Tuesday, 8 September 2015

From little things big green walls grow



I've questioned the value of 'green walls' at times (e.g. Blueprint for Living, Talking Plants on RN), but I've also made a few complementary remarks from time to time. In this post I want to focus on one building, One Central Park in Sydney, with its 150-metre-high vertical gardens designed by green-haired Patrick Blanc.

These green walls were promoted as the tallest in the world when installed a few years ago. The largest living wall in Europe was claimed by a power company in the UK, when it wrapped its car park in planters. A 7-storey green clad building destined for Brisbane will support a 489 square metre vertical garden that, it says, rival some of the biggest in the world.

All fine I guess but the cost of installing and maintaining these walls has been weighted up against their environmental and social benefits. Apart from the engineering needed to keep the plants where they are, there is the huge water budget needed unless you plant particularly wisely.

Anyway, we can judge them all over time. This is what that art installation on One Central Park looks like today (or at least in June when I took these pictures) about two years after its actual installation.


Yet...,the building itself looks pretty good still. It looks green and it looks like a greenish wall thanks not so much to the massive vertical gardens but to the plantings on the apartment terraces. I'm presuming the terrace gardens are part of fellow Parisian architect Jean Nouvell's concept and brief, although no doubt with some assistance from Mr Blanc.


The well proven way to green a wall is to plant something like Virginia (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) or Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) against the wall, or 'espalier' (training/pruning a plant to grow flat against a wall) something. The Botany Building at the University of Melbourne has just planted a clutch of ginkgo which they are planning to espalier against the wall of the building facing their Systems Garden. On the front wall they already have Boston Ivy doing a fine job.

But this post is all about One Central Park, so here are a few more pictures that show off the successfully green bits of this striking and likable building, which to be fair includes some of the Blanc walls along with those botanical balconies.


Note: Landscape Architecture Magazine features the building and its garden in its July 2015 issue, with Carol Becker providing much more insight into the engineering and design behind the project.