Besides the urban gardening and urban farming movements, there are some wonderful artistic creations being developed, using existing walls of buildings. It is about design with nature, rather than over nature. Others refer to biomimcry. For me, these living walls bring beauty back into out lives, a manufactured nature in some ways (Newman and Dale, forthcoming), but more importantly, they call to our tactile senses, and that, I believe, is critical to the implementation of sustainable development.
There’s a Frenchman named Patrick Blanc who has been designing vertical gardens that loop up hotel walls and germinate across shopping mall interiors in Paris, Kuwait, Bangkok, and Gdansk. From his headquarters in Sweden, Folke Günther developed a vertical growing wall to promote more efficient and ecologically sound urban farming. He has named it the “Folkewall,” after himself, but vertical gardens are also being called “growing walls” and “living walls.” He has a very interesting blog about how to get rid of carbon dioxide, improve the soil and earn money, all at the same time. Arbo-architects Ferdinand Ludwig, Oliver Storz and Hannes Schwertfeger call their work “building botany.” They make building structures that are a fusion of trees and steel pipes. The two intertwine such that organic and inorganic become a single being. Essentially, they want to make living, breathing, growing houses (Spaces and Flows Newsletter, February 2011).
Here in North America, a colleague of mine from Ryerson University, Professor Nina-Marie Lister participated in a design competition for building highway passes for biodiversity conservation. Some of the designs are really awesome, again showing the power of design to connect or disconnect us from our landscapes, check out their video.