Thursday, September 3, 2009
Living wall disaster
Here is the Sure Start Centre at Paradise Park in Islington, London (photo courtesy of http://vegitecture.blogspot.com - a very good website on green architecture), and how it was when I went two years ago.
Architects (not normally renowned for their understanding of plant life) seem to think that you can take the green roof concept, spin it through 90 degrees and stick it on a wall to make a ‘living wall’. And there are folks out there brave enough to give it a go – Patrick Blanc in Paris is the best known, and let’s be honest, he’s a genius (even if he is a bit of an ego-maniac, striding across the pictures in his book like he is a rock star), and there are those who perhaps ought to stick to planting window boxes. Making plants grow vertically is a challenge which can be done, but needs a lot of techno-kit and lots of money, and lots of maintenance, and if the system breaks down in a heat wave, lots of skips to put the dead plants in. But if you have the dosh and the nerve, why not give it a go?
The other way of making a green wall is the facadegreening technique (see my blog on the subject a few blogs ago). It’s a bit boring because it is so simple and natural – you simply take advantage of the fact that a lot of plants are good climbers and you give ‘em something to climb up. Unless they are planted in window boxes, a drought will only slow them down, not kill them. Its an approach which is far more natural, need far less maintenance, is far far more reliable and cheaper:
Living walls cost $807 per m2
Facadegreening costs $122 per m2
for materials and installation
according to the figures, suppliers have given me.
Now, I am not against living walls, they are great in the right place, like in boutique hotels, designer clothes stores and £20 for a mingy starter restaurants – places where most of us don’t hang out, unless someone else is paying. But I object to their nature-defying machismo, the obvious sense that here are people trying to run before they can walk. For the vast majority of landscape applications, give me some wisteria and some stainless steel rope and let nature do the rest.