Living Wall

by Aida Haghighi and Farid Faal

Looking for a discovery story for our creativity workshop, we wanted to find an attractive subject for readers. While walking and visiting BIOSPHÈRE, ENVIRONMENT MUSEUM, we discovered a living wall. Curious, we wanted to know more. How it works and what was the idea behind this creative concept? This seems the perfect subject.

Farid Faal is a PhD Candidate at Polytechnique School of Montreal in Industrial Engineering.

Farid Faal is a PhD Candidate at Polytechnique School of Montreal in Industrial Engineering.

Aida Haghighi is a PhD Candidate at Polytechnique School of Montreal in Industrial Engineering.

Aida Haghighi is a PhD Candidate at Polytechnique School of Montreal in Industrial Engineering.

Designer wanted to create a large tableau representing the four seasons. The wall is separated into four distinct parts: spring is symbolized by fresh yellow foliage. Next to it, summer is encapsulated by lush, green plants. Fall is represented by a range of its characteristic colours; shades of orange, red and crimson. Lastly, the essence of winter is captured by more demure green and white leaves. (museum's information)

What is a living wall?

Living wall, vertical gardens, green walls are all the same, except for ivy walls[1]. In green walls, the plants root is a structural support which is fastened to the wall itself. The plants receive water and nutrients from within the vertical support instead from the ground. They naturally remove toxins and unhealthy contaminants from the air that we breathe. They can be a complete ecosystem or a simple configuration of plants. They have been introduced to decontaminate urban environments.

Living walls are both indoor and outdoor. The indoor wall planters hold twice the soil volume as the standard outdoor wall planters. The largest green wall covers 2,700 square meters. Located at the Los Cabos International Convention Center, a building designed, by Mexican architect Fernando Romero in 2015.

Many green walls have been constructed by Institutions and in public places such as Airports and are now becoming common, to improve the aesthetics. [2,3]

Stanley Hart White (1891-1979), a Professor of  Landscape Architecture at the University of Illinois from 1922 to1959 patented a green wall system in 1938. White studying agriculture, he called his invention "Botanical Bricks" and developed prototypes in his backyard in Urbana, Illinois which were simply plant units capable of being built up to any height, the vertical surfaces covered with flowers. He thought that the idea has great possibilities for such things as world fairs, city yards, indoor gardens, and many other projects. He retired from teaching in 1959, but continued to participate actively to the discipline as a writer and lecturer. [4]

Designing and implementing  this complex system is a long process involving different fields, architects, engineers, joiners, plumbers, electricians and horticulturists. The living walls usually have a waterproof surfaces with thick fabric that can support plants and retain large quantities of water. A system of pumps and pipes supplies water and nutrients to the plants, while LED lamps provide the light they need. (museum's information)

More than half of the world’s population lives in an industrial cities where concrete structures dominate. However, with the push for healthier environments the world is turning green.  Designers, architects and planners are including plants as a way to improve existing infrastructural aesthetics. Also, green infrastructure provide cleaner air and water and Improve air quality as the overall environment, such: human health and wellbeing. Living Labs regulate temperature and reduce carbon footprint, protect building façades, deter graffiti, reduce noise by adding a layer of insulation (both thermal and acoustic) absorbing sound.

Nowadays, It is an option to implement a green wall whether its internally or externally for decorating. It is important to make sure that the wall will get enough sunlight. Also, creating a living wall —is also a piece of living artwork! So, have fun and think carefully about the plants that you wish to include. To ensure that you get the maximum environmental benefits  there are specific plants which are perfect for helping reduce toxins including: bamboo, chrysanthemums, spider plants, English ivy, elephant ear philodendron, peace lily.[5] 

Creativity comes from a conflict of idea.
— Donatella Versace

Therefore, thinking different can contribute to make an invention like growing plants on the wall instead of the ground.