Climbing the Living Walls in Paris

July 31, 2009 by


When I visited the iconic French architect Jean Novel in his Paris “atelier” (studio), I asked him about his design of the Musée du Quai Branly and of his collaboration with the eccentric botanical designer, Patrick Blanc. For the museum, Blanc designed a 656 foot long x 40 foot wide green facade that faces the Seine river, a location that establishes a perfect micro-climate for the vertical garden’s large variety of plants. 

My friend Susi at the great wall of Patrick Blanc

I asked Nouvel if he had any second thoughts about the location of Blanc’s green wall since plants are low enough for people to touch and possibly damage them. “None whatsoever,” he told me, “they can just plant new ones.” Green walls, like other living things, are ephemeral by nature.

Environmental Benefits
Because green walls are vertical, they don’t capture and filter storm water like green roof systems can, although with certain configurations, it’s possible to direct water from the roof through a wall system and storm water attenuation panels on certain green wall designs can absorb rainwater. Apart from aesthetics and environmental air quality benefits, green walls don’t provide as much insulation bang for your buck as green roofs since in most buildings more energy is lost or gained per square foot through the roof rather than through the walls. that said, a well-designed green wall on the south side of a building will reduce cooling demands and increase comfort in the summer.

Looking through the window to the interior garden

Greening the Future One Wall At a Time
Think about the future of our cities if green walls were more widespread. Green spaces wouldn’t be limited to just rooftops, parks or street side planting areas, but could instead hide or replace some of the cold concrete on our buildings. Streets would be cooler. Vegetables can grow in urban spaces that currently sit unused, allowing city dwellers to eat more locally grown food, and reducing the impact of shipping in food from far away. At least in a small way, cities could begin to reduce some of the carbon they generate.

So, the next time you’re thinking about replacing a wall at home or redoing an internal or external wall where you work, think about throwing some green into the mix.

For more on Green Walls:
Alive Structures
Plant Connection
ELT Easy Green

Photos by Robin Plaskoff Horton, Urban Gardens.


  1. Jeannie said:

    lovely, lovely pictures…a world apart from the vertical wall systems I’ve seen lately, which just don’t inspire me. This is a world. (although I tried going to the Parisian site and it being in french, had me a bit stumped…guidee du le muse…what? lol

    — August 1, 2009 @ 13:07

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