While he is often misattributed as being the inventor of living green walls in the more cursory online publications — quite an absurd status to bestow upon anyone who has only been working since the last quarter of the 20th century — Patrick Blanc is certainly the botanist who brought architectural plant installations to prominence.
Blanc’s ingenious patented Mur Végétal (Vertical Garden) system, which involves layers of felt membranes and integrated irrigation pipes, has enabled him to create these vibrant and complex installations in virtually every major city throughout the world.
Although his Vertical Garden concept can be applied to sheer vertical surfaces in both interior and exterior settings, Patrick Blanc’s work is predominantly found adorning public-facing facades of commercial buildings. On the Caixa Forum in Madrid (pictured below), the vibrant green wall contrasts brilliantly with the rust red of its neighbour’s Corten steel exterior.
The piece that seems to have attracted the most attention though is his ‘The Oasis of Aboukir’ installation in Paris which features a bewildering 237 different plants species. The 25m high Vertical Garden covers 5 storeys and offers a more organic alternative to the previously blank concrete facade.
On a load-bearing wall or structure is placed a metal frame that supports a PVC plate 10 millimetres (0.39 in) thick, on which are stapled two layers of polyamide felt each 3 millimetres (0.12 in) thick. These layers mimic cliff-growing mosses and support the roots of many plants. A network of pipes controlled by valves provides a nutrient solution containing dissolved minerals needed for plant growth.
The felt is soaked by capillary action with this nutrient solution, which flows down the wall by gravity. The roots of the plants take up the nutrients they need, and excess water is collected at the bottom of the wall by a gutter, before being re-injected into the network of pipes: the system works in a closed circuit. Plants are chosen for their ability to grow on this type of environment and depending on available light.Patrick Blanc on his Mur Végétal System
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