There’s an old adage that while Doctors can bury their mistakes, Architects have to live with them. By the same token, the only thing to do with some buildings to disguise their ugliness, is to plant ivy and hope it covers up the hideousness.
architect botanist Patrick Blanc has spent the last few years perfecting the art of growing plants that will happily cover the facades of your mistakes. While in NZ the growing trend appears to be more in the line of a series of mushrooms inside your wall, Blanc has been able to create a vertical forest via a felt fabric and careful watering system, coupled with exactly the right sort of plants that can grow at the right wind conditions.
“Blanc uses a kind of techno-trellis as the underlying structure: A plastic-coated aluminum frame is fastened to the wall and covered with synthetic felt into which plant roots can burrow. A custom irrigation system keeps the felt moist with a fertilizer solution modeled after the rainwater that trickles through forest canopies.”
The article on Wired magazine notes that his latest work at the Athenaeum in London has “plants that usually cling to windblown cliff faces brave the blustery British breezes.” One wonders if that bluster would extend to the howling northerlies and southerlies that we have here in Wellington, but nonetheless, there are definitely some buildings in Wellington that would be improved no end by application of this technique.
Blanc has worked with many well-known architects over the years (his CV quotes Jean Nouvel, Marc Newson, Andre Putman, Herzog de Meuron amongst others), and he has won medals in Architecture and Botany for his work and his writing. An irrepressible french grin and the odd (very odd) picture of him naked as a tree frog in the jungle mangrove swamps somewhere in Africa no doubt add to his charm.
These vertical gardens (Monsieur Blanc says: “I think only vertically“) are proving to be a hit in Shopping Malls (4 completed in 2009, including one in Poland, one in Kuwait, one in Lisbon and of course one in France), Showrooms for Rolex, Trussardi, and Galleries Lafayette, as well as the ones featured here in London and Madrid, and a whole swathe of Hotels of the greenest kind in Cannes, Paris, Saint-Tropez, Barcelona, and Los Angeles. The closest to us here in NZ is the Shot Tower in Melbourne, completed last year. What would be your target for a Blanc facade in Wellington?