One summer when I was a kid, our Civil War-era house on the Mississippi River got flooded. Nothing of much value was destroyed, but a few months later, an entire wall in our dank basement became overgrown with moss and mold. My mother’s shame was immediate, and the whole family spent several days scrubbing and the wall until it was clean again. Little did she know, if she’d have just left it alone for a couple decades, it would’ve been right on trend.
Green walls are the hottest thing since the last thing that was really hot, and it’s easy to see why. Not only do they look really cool (especially in social media photos), they’re also perfectly in keeping with the contemporary zeal for all things natural. Once zero-emissions “green” buildings became popular, it was only a matter of time before literal green buildings became a thing. Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting green walls around the world.
This amazing installation in Paris is considered, in many circles, to be the “Patient Zero” of green walls. Built in 2013 for Paris Design Week by the French botanist Patrick Blanc, this second arrondissement eye-catcher uses 237 species of plants – 7600 individual plants in all – to cover what was once a raw concrete wall with diagonal slashes of greenery. It looks great, but I’m glad I’m not the guy who has to mow this vertical lawn.
In London, the city’s largest green wall is just down the street from Buckingham Palace. Growing from the face of the Palace Hotel, the buttercups, geraniums, strawberries, and other seasonal plants in the wall are rooted in 16 tons of soil, which the designers somehow got to cling to the side of this luxury hotel, possibly by flinging mudballs at the wall. The greenery is irrigated with rainwater that’s collected in tanks on the roof and then dripped down the side of the building.
This green wall – the largest in North America – is located in Longwood Gardens, in Pennsylvania. At 14 feet high and 300 feet long, this green wall is basically a tunnel o’ jungle. Those doors you see in the photo are bathrooms – the green walls are in the wing of the gardens where the 17 bathrooms are located. You think anyone’s ever peed in those plants before? Do you know what a rhetorical question is?
If it’s trendy and expensive, you know they’ve got it in Dubai. This massive green wall is almost 700 feet long and 20 feet tall, making in the largest in the Middle East. Made of over 80,000 plants, the designer claims its positive environmental impact is equal to 200 trees, which sounds like something you say right before you cut down 200 trees. They also claim that the wall offsets 4.4 tons of carbon dioxide annually, which should take care of like one-third of one of the thousands of oil sheik Lamborghinis that are perpetually burning rubber around Dubai.
This impressive specimen is in Mexico City, where the government has been building gardens and green walls at a rapid pace, to try and offset some of the city’s notorious air pollution. It should give you some idea of the scale of the problem to realize it’s easier to build elaborate vertical gardens than to get citizens to stop driving un-mufflered Seventies-era diesel scooters around.
Like a green wall? How about a green mall? (I’m so sorry.) The Il Fiordaliso shopping center in Milan, Italy is almost entirely covered in greenery, and boasted, for a few years, the largest green wall on Earth. Whereas the other green walls on this list use a system where the plants are rooted directly in the surface of the wall itself, Il Fiordaliso’s greenery was first planted in long flat pans that were then fit together, Tetris-style, and nailed to the side of the mall.