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10/19/2017 Going Vertical: The History of Green Walls Landscape Architects Network

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Home Environment Posts Going Vertical: The History of Green Walls

Posted by LAN on Jan 19, 2014 in Environment Posts, Landscape architecture Posts

Going Vertical: The History of Green Walls


An idea almost as old as cities
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Green walls: Function or fad?As cities and buildings all around the world are
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being covered in green, we take a look at the phenomenon ofgreen walls. The
rst example of green walls may be found in the Hanging Gardens of
Babylon, even if they may have been more roof gardens than green walls.
Later, from Scandinavia to Japan, numerous civilizations used climbing plants to
cover buildings, making what is now called green faades.

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10/19/2017 Going Vertical: The History of Green Walls Landscape Architects Network

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Photo credit: Patrick Blanc

Green faades were very important in the Art and Crafts and Modern style
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movements in Europe. For instance, in the beginning of the 20 century, the
Jugendstil movement used climbing plants (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) on the
buildings to make a seamless changeover between the house and garden. In
England, the Garden City movement showed great examples of green faades.
William Robinson and Gertrude Jekyll designed outdoor vegetated rock walls
used for screening & boundaries in gardens. You can still see such examples in
Griftpark (Ultrecht, Netherlands).The use of climbing plants declined in the 30s,
due to new building techniques and peoples concern about possible
consequences on wall stability.

Patrick Blanc, a French botanist, is noted as the rst to design the modern
pattern of green walls, with a full hydroponic system, an inert medium and
numerous exotic species. His rst green wall is at the Museum of Science and
Industry.

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10/19/2017 Going Vertical: The History of Green Walls Landscape Architects Network

Green walls in North America

Green faades have always been less common in North America. Nowadays,
what we call vertical gardens seems to have rst been theorized in the U.S. in
1937 by Stanley Hart White which pre-dates Patrick Blancs work in France. His
theories are now being used once again by students at University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign.

What is a green wall?

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10/19/2017 Going Vertical: The History of Green Walls Landscape Architects Network

Photo credit: Patrick Blanc

Lets focus on living walls, also called biowalls, vertical gardens or Vertical
Vegetated Complex Walls (VCW). The simplest way is to picture it as a cli : the

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10/19/2017 Going Vertical: The History of Green Walls Landscape Architects Network

synthetic medium is the interface to which the cli growing plant species can
hang onto. The hydroponic system is often used to create a succession of dry
periods and humid ones.

One of the more important moments in the design process of a green wall
is the choosing of species: you must choose plants which will grow straight
and will have beautiful lower foliage, as they will be seen from
underneath. The rst living walls used tropical plants but the choice is now
much larger.As more recent green walls create beautiful patterns, it is
becoming a new urban art.

Why green walls?

They have multiple impacts on cities and citizens; they protect buildings from
the e ects of natural elements; they are introducing more gardens in urban
areas and they can even be used to grow vegetables!

Under sun exposure, a bare wall will contribute to heat conduction inside the
building, making the internal building temperature rise, and contributing to the
urban heat island e ect. But green walls, where the leaves of plants lose water
through evapotranspiration, lower the surrounding air and building
temperatures.Green walls also depress the cities temperaturethey create
a microclimate.

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10/19/2017 Going Vertical: The History of Green Walls Landscape Architects Network

Photo credit: Patrick Blanc

The Tokyo Institute of Technology proved that green walls lower the energy loss
of buildings. They also prevent the creation of urban dust (partly due to the

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10/19/2017 Going Vertical: The History of Green Walls Landscape Architects Network

e ect of wind over buildings) and absorb heavy metal particulates from the
atmosphere.

However, the rst consequence of living walls is the creation of new green space
in cities, where available space is scarce. Green

walls are still newcomers in


landscape architecture, and
innovation is fast. They are
invading new places every day. On
bridges and roads, they can cover
ugly or decaying concrete
structures, such as in Mexico City.

Every country invents new


solutions to answer its own
particular problems. In Canada,
where winters are very long,
green walls are placed inside
buildings to help o set SAD Photo credit: Patrick Blanc

(Seasonal A ective Disorder).

We need gardens to be happier, even scientists have proven as much with the
biophilia hypothesis. Lets build some green walls to achieve this goal! One
must not forget that as with every green space, green walls have advantages
and drawbacks (such as using a non-biodegradable medium and often huge
water needs) and must only be seen as part of the solution to make our
concrete jungle cities greener.

If you want to know more on the subject of green walls check out our book
reviewPlanting Green Roofs and Living Walls by Nigel Dunnett and Nol
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