Expansive green spaces are in short supply in offices because they require light, care and space. As is so often the case, the solution lies in changing perspectives: “not horizontal, but vertical” is the contemporary motto for interior landscaping.
The French botanist and garden designer Patrick Blanc is known as the inventor of the Vertical Garden. He created the first private one in 1982, and in 1986 the first public "Mur Végétal". The concept experienced a breakthrough in 2001 – with the green wall designed by Blanc in the interior courtyard of the Parisian luxury hotel Perishing Hall. The living artwork stretches to a height of thirty metres, taking the concept to architectural dimensions for the first time. It is still amazing, even today.
Since then, Blanc has enlivened and greened innumerable walls throughout the world. Whether it’s an interior wall of the Marithé+Francois Girbaud Stores in New York (2003), the exterior façade of the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris (2005), the entry hall to the Siam Paragon Shopping Mall in Bangkok (2005) or the Qantas Lounge in Sydney (2007) - Blanc is a hot topic, as is the Vertical Garden.
We know both of them already: interior gardens with potted plants and small green spaces, in the lounge for example, and the façade greening of buildings. The Vertical Garden, also called a Green Wall, Plantwall or Living Wall, expands on previous concepts by a decisive step.
Let us consider for a moment a house with a greened façade. How does it look? Which plants cover the walls? How did it become the way that it looks today? Now, maybe we have an image of ivy vines, Virginia creeper or Boston ivy that has worked its way right up the wall. Perhaps also clematis, wisteria or even roses that need a climbing aid such as a mesh or grid to climb upwards. All of these plants have one thing in common: they have to grow before the entire façade is covered in living foliage. And some plants never reach this goal because their growth height is limited.
The difference is that Green Walls offer full-surface foliage from the beginning. It is not necessary to have plantable soil on the ground because the plants grow horizontally out of the vertical wall. These vertical surfaces usually consist of a steel scaffold placed slightly in front of the building wall and filled with planting "bags" or covered with foam panels or felt mats. The rear wall is of course sealed with a waterproof layer. Automatic vertical droplet watering, maybe in combination with humidity and temperature sensors, as well as an integrated supply of minerals, make the wall easy to care for and ideally suited for interior spaces.
This kind of Living Wall works both inside and outside. On the façade, a Living Wall reduces the summer heat with shade and evaporation, and it has an insulating effect in winter. It also offers a natural protective hull against driving rain and UV radiation. And the word "living" has a dual meaning: not only is the wall itself alive; it also offers living space for urban animals, at least in outdoor areas.
There are more benefits both outdoors and indoors: Living Walls swallow up sound waves and therefore contribute to a more pleasant acoustic atmosphere. They work as natural air cleaning systems, reduce pollutants, bind dust and transform CO² into oxygen. Living Walls in the office also create a healthier room climate with their humidifying effect – which is a particularly positive benefit when the heating has to be turned on.
But aside from all of these advantages: it is simply a wonderful feeling to sit in an office in front of a wall made of real plants, to talk or relax in such a laid-back atmosphere. It is unbelievably soothing and enlivening. The Living Wall’s lushness is a surprising highlight in every office – for employees and customers in equal measure. Also from an aesthetic perspective. Whether the plants are arranged by colour and type into a specific "pattern" or represent a "wild" jungle, the Living Wall speaks to us at an emotional level and constantly impresses us with its liveliness.
It looks as though this trend will be around for quite a while. After all, in the last ten years, countless Living Wall projects have been completed: in private houses, schools, restaurants, stores and shopping malls, hotels, museums, embassies, airports, trade fairs and even in car parks – and of course in offices as well.