Sunday, October 11, 2009

Vertical Gardens! A Patrick Blanc Green Wall for San Francisco

Caixa Forum, Madrid
photos by sallylondon
Architects, Herzog & de Meuron (San Francisco's de Young Museum, 
among their accomplishments) designed the addition on the adjacent building adjacent to the green wall: 
The upper stories exhibiting a tactile, richly colored cor-ten steel facade, in brilliant juxtaposition alongside the verdant surface of Patrick Blanc's expansive plantings.

Blanc broke new ground when he developed a highly successful technique for living walls,  the vertical gardens that now adorn buildings worldwide in indoor and outdoor settings.
Years ago, while visiting Paris I planned an early-morning visit to the Pershing Hall hotel, to see an early Blanc project installed on an interior courtyard wall.

The green wall Blanc created for the Caixa Forum is composed of 15,000 plants;  250 different species. In Blanc's words, "The Vertical Garden allows man to re-create a living system very similar to natural environments. It's a way to add nature to places where man once removed it. Thanks to botanical knowledge, it's possible to display natural-looking plant landscapes even though they are man-made. ...a Vertical Garden" can be "a valuable shelter for biodiversity."
Locally, Blanc has been chosen to design a green wall for the new Assembly Wing of San Francisco's Drew School, Blanc's largest project in the U.S. to date.
I'll be attending Blanc's lecture in San Francisco.
A botanist by profession, with eye-popping green hair, 
Blanc is sure to draw an enthusiastic crowd to the SPUR center in downtown San Francisco!


  1. These living walls are gorgeous but I do have mixed feelings about them... and what is natural about them as in Blanc's statement above... "natural environment"? "Similar"? Of course plants are a living palette and one can bring plants into spaces they might not be able to ... just call me mixed up about this one. As a former weaver I see them like tapestries ... very beautiful.

  2. Would be interesting if they have studied the wildlife in there. We have lizards living in gaps between bricks, so why not tucked up in a sedum?

  3. I love seeing living walls popping up all over the place. It's about time. I grew up in an area of So. California where it was nothing but concrete and asphalt. Living walls could go a long way to making that area more livable. I hope you'll post some notes from his lecture.

  4. What an amazing wall Alice. Hard to say more. Amazing.

  5. Carol,
    Appreciate your voicing mixed feelings. I took the quotes from a longer statement. Cannot know how much the words in their entirety might change the point Blanc makes. Surely not 'natural' this vertical expanse, but living, breathing flora that positively affects the air quality. And the atmosphere for anyone nearby.
    I'll be very curious to see what sort of comments are raised at the talk, and will report back!

    EE, Surely there are small creatures that find places to inhabit in Blanc's green installations. Would be interesting to see a study on this.

    Kat, I was raised surrounded by asphalt and concrete in Chicago, so I do understand from a most personal standpoint! I expect to write more about the project. Thanks!

    Janet, Agreed! Blanc is amazing, & multi-dimensional in his creativity!

  6. oh my gosh! Modern and abstract and green and plants? THis is just gorgeous. I would like to see this in person.

  7. Oh my goodness! I have never seen anything like this before! It is so beautiful. It looks just like an artist's canvas. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  8. This really got my attention. I am at this very moment thinking of creating a vertical-something or other- living wall. I like the idea of walls that are not traditional walls, that breathe and transition. Thank you for the inspiration.

  9. That looks amazing. I probably prefer green roofs, which have clear environmental benefits. But anything that gets folks interested in plantlife is a good thing. Wish I weren't so busy, that talk sounds so interesting.

  10. I have read some news about greening city buildings the vertical way. I think Singapore has started with this. From this picture, it looks like a work of art. I hope the system works in the long run.

  11. It is always fun seeing where next you will stop whilst enjoying my cup of tea.

    I can't get excited about green walls though, novel yes, nicer than concrete yes, but I still much prefer a climbing plant or two to dress the concrete.

  12. I too have mixed feelings. Some of them are works of art but I don't see them as gardens. Too intensive and artificial for me - and the watering and access for maintenance must be a nightmare. Surely they must have a short life. On the other hand the good ones like this one can be spectacular!

  13. Fabulous, I agree it looks like a living green tapestry. Can't see the drawbacks, it greens up what would otherwise be barren brick, stone and concrete. If I understand correctly they self water from reservoirs built into the structure. At least that is what the modest "vertigardens" do.

  14. Oooh I hope you enjoy Patric Blanc's lecture - I attended one in Melbourne and he is hilarious. Funnily enough before I came across your post I was reading Noel Kingbury's post from Sep 3 about disastrous greenwalls ( Personally I adore them but agree they are terribly expensive to create and maintain. Patrick Blanc however is a artistic/scientific genius in my opinion.

  15. Hello all,
    I must come clean if my position is not already apparent:
    Blanc has won me over. Considering the scale of the projects he now plans and implements, it apapears his technique has been proved to work, and as I understand it, the flora in the walls generally grows well and thrives.

    I find these unusual gardens to be beguiling enhancements to their settings, as they help to educate at the same time.

    Tina, You've increased my anticipation regarding the lecture!
    Blanc is considered a genius by many, so you're not alone in your opinion.

    The expense in terms of creating and maintaining is something I'm totally unfamiliar with, but once San Francisco has its own 'Blanc wall', I'm sure I'll find plenty written about this aspect.

  16. I'd love to see a living wall. I think they are very exciting. How great that you get to see one.

  17. Hi Lovely Tendril!
    I am TOTALLy in conflict here, because I ADORE green walls as art pieces, but have yet to see any that have proved to be sustainable in the long run. Vines, which are nature's 'green walls', have discs and tendrils (ha!) by which they maintain their upward mobility - a wall of plants are always going to be affected by gravity as they grow, making maintenance difficult. I understand that most greenwalls are a bonanza for succulent wholesalers/retailers, which is a good thing for the industry - but not really where we should we going when thinking about sustainability. One famous builder/proponent of 'vertical gardens' makes a significant amount of money re-supplying these walls from the nursery they own!
    I'm very excited to follow the progress of this piece - I would LOVE it if they were be proven to work. They are gorgeous and I love anything that adds plants to a space - hell ... I'd design a green wall tomorrow if I could be assured I wouldn't be giving my client a maintenance/financial liability! So the jury is still out for me, but I'd be lying like a rug if I said they weren't beautiful and super-cool!
    Thanks for the opportunity to comment - always thought provoking as well as gorgeous posts!

  18. Mary Delle,
    I'm on tenterhooks! Can't believe that I will be able to get up-close & personal with one of Blanc's projects... whenever the moods strikes. (Assuming it all comes off as planned.)

    With the scale of Blanc's projects having become so huge, I expect that he has reconciled the issue of sustainability on some level. I can't imagine these projects would be undertaken at this point in time if they were to require an enormous amount of maintenance and replacement. I don't think he usually uses succulents, but I'll surely find out at the lecture!!

    You've got me very curious about the unnamed 'vertical gardens' proponent - I'm assuming this is in your area, where succulents would make the most sense. How disappointing, if you've seen walls where the plants did not grow well. Wish we could get together and have a lengthy conversation about this.

    Believe me, girlfriend, I'm gonna keep close watch on Blanc's local effort.
    I'll be reporting on its progress, the plants, design, and how it holds up.
    You've got me pondering the upside & the downside... Thanks, kiddo!

  19. What a treasure. This Horticultural Art is truly groundbreaking! Sorry, I couldn't resist that one.
    This phrase really resonated with me: "It's a way to add nature to places where man once removed it."
    Thank you for sharing a lovely and informative post.