One of us lives on the east coast. One of us lives on the west.

One of us lives in a rural community. One of us lives in a city.

Both of us wander. Both of us witness. Both of us write.

This is a record of what we find.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Patrick Blanc And Urban Vertical Gardening

Aboukir Street and Petits Carreaux Street

I spend a lot of time thinking about the contrast between man-made environments and nature-made environments. Over the past four years (yes! It’s our fourth Kissing The Earth blog-o-versary!) Tam and I have spent a lot of time here talking about variations on this theme, about the urban and the rural, about oases of nature in the city and human intervention in nature. A grove of redwoods in Golden Gate Park and neighbors rushing in to help with the aftermath of a flood in rural Vermont.

I mentioned here recently that I was reading Diane Ackerman’s The Human Age, an in depth look at the Anthropocene, to review for BookBrowse. In it, she introduces readers to a myriad of innovators reshaping the way we live and the way we will be living in the future given the disturbing effects of global warming, contrasted with the latest technologies, the vast amount of information available on the internet, and the advances in medicine and abilities to improve the human body. She takes a surprising and refreshingly optimistic view considering the current seriously threatening environmental chaos on Earth, but reminds us that we are thinkers, builders, rearrangers, inventors, and innovators and believes our abilities and innovations can and will help people adapt. She then goes about convincing readers by introducing us to the people who are actively involved in helping to create this future.
Musée du quai Branly, Quai
Part of what she explores is how people are ‘humanizing’ cities, making them greener, more livable, more sustainable. She discusses urban biodiversity, and biomimicry (buildings that resemble growing organisms). She shows us how excess body heat from 250,000 railway travelers is being used to heat a thirteen-story office building in Stockholm in the middle of winter.

One of the many innovators in the realm of urban biodiversity that I was especially drawn to is the French botanist Patrick Blanc, widely acknowledged as the father of the vertical garden. Blanc has recreated natural habitats as artistic, living green tapestries in major urban centers all over the world, developing a process that allows plants—flowers, mosses, vines, and shrubs—to grow without soil along the face of a wall, where they attach their roots to a felt irrigation cloth that evenly distributes water and nutrients across its entire surface. (So cool!) Blanc spent years traveling the world, studying plants that flourish vertically in their natural habitats; plants that grow in and around waterfalls where damp walls are often completely hidden by plant life—places like Cuba, Wales, Java, Thailand, the Canary Islands, Cameroon and Venezuela; plants that thrive up and down riverbanks in Sumatra, Kyoto, on a small mountain north of Valencia, Spain, in Mali and in Ecuador; plants growing on cliffs and rocky outcroppings where species have adapted to tolerate droughts; caves with plants growing on rock surfaces where water seeps through; and plants that grow in dark glens, on slopes and in forests.
Icon Hotel Hong Kong 
And then returning to his urban habitat, he’s used what he learned to create dynamic ecosystems that attract butterflies and birds, help clean the air, produce more oxygen, and reduce noise. They also soften contours and offer relieve from all of the hard surfaces that make up a city, they feed the human spirit, and help to reconnect us urban dwellers to the natural world.

You can learn more about what Patrick Blanc is up to and where you can see one of his lush garden tapestries in person here 

And if you don’t know about BookBrowse, you should! It’s a fantastic online member-based community for book lovers. 

Take Good Care,


1 comment:

  1. This is so cool. It is so nice to be reminded, from time to time, of all the good people in the world, and what they are doing.