On a short break away to Madrid last week I stumbled upon the CaixaForum, a splendid gallery designed by the architects Herzog and de Meuron situated near the Atocha station. In fact to my shame, on my first day there I stood right outside of it looking at the strangeness of the building and admiring its fantastic green art wall just across the street, without having the slightest clue that this was part of the CaixaForum exhibition.
Just outside in the public space is the very beautiful vertical garden by French botanist Patrick Blanc. Often considered to have pioneered the ‘green wall’ in the 1980’s (actually it was invented by Professor Stanley Hart White at the University of Illinois in 1938), Blanc has been quite the artist-eco-warrior, even if he is only one of many bringing plant life to the rigid architectural structures of our modern world.
The wall creates a stark contrast with the red brick and rusting metal of the gallery facade creating a visual link or connection to the park nearby. During my visit part of the garden was being replaced so it was possible to see its underlying construction – fascinating watch; a kind of felt matting is attached to the wall then plants which are capable of living in this kind of environment are grown from pockets in the matting with irrigation coming from piping at the top of the wall.
The Royal Horticultural Society describes the benefits of green walls including improved insulation for the building, contributing to urban air quality, while providing habitats for insects along with the more obvious aesthetic benefits.
Perhaps it is time every neighbourhood had a Green Wall.