Patrick Blanc, Vertical Garden Pioneer

Patrick Blanc is a botanical visionary like no other. From a young age on he dedicated his life to the vast diversity of plants, starting in his teens when he experimented by building biological plant filters for his aquarium. Later the Parisian studied tropical botany, scouted through the rainforests around the world and researched the growth habits of plants. One of his most important insights was that plants don’t really need soil to grow healthy. A huge number of plants thrive perfectly fine in nature on vertical surfaces without earth or any solid substrate. Only water with minerals, light and carbon dioxide are essential for photosynthesis.  

Blanc applied his knowledge about vegetation to his vision of a vertical garden; if plants can grow on sandstone and in caves, why not on man-made walls? His invention is a system that consists of a metal framework, a PVC layer and a layer of felt. The rot-proof textile absorbs water and the plant’s roots can grow on it. Blanc’s first projects in the 1980s were very successful and he patented his ideas in 1988 and 1996. He was celebrated by garden experts and artists alike and since then he is regarded as a fusion of a gardener, an artist and an architect. Nowadays he designs and builds vertical gardens all over the world, from San Francisco to Tokyo.

In this increasingly urbanized world nature is in a constant retreat. The fixing of plants onto the outsides of buildings is not only done for visual effects: Vegetation is becoming more and more important for the well-being of the city dwellers. It cleans the air from toxic pollutants and saves energy by providing protection from the hot sun in the summer and insulation from the cold in the winter.

In Sydney, Patrick Blanc is now working on his masterpiece: The 166 meter tall multi-functional tower complex One Central Park will have the biggest vertical garden in the world on its outer structures. Hundreds of species of native and exotic plants will flow down the walls like a green waterfall. Together with a LED installation by acclaimed light artist Yann Kersalé, the building will change the skyline of the Australian metropolis in a spectacular way. The One Central Park is scheduled to open next year.

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Topos Landscape Award 2013 for Peter Latz

German Landscape architect Peter Latz has been awarded the Topos Landscape Award 2013. The magazine Topos – The International Review of Landscape Architecture and Urban Design chose Latz mainly because of his design of the Landscape Park Duisburg in the 1990s. According to Topos the Landscape Park is an icon of how to handle and reuse post-industrial sites.

Major parks play an important role in large and growing cities. Facing radical global economic and social changes in the post-industrial age, landscape architects have to learn to reinterpret the idea of a “park”. With his conversion of the industrial waste land into a green public space for the citizens, Peter Latz influenced landscape architects worldwide. Others of his popular projects are the City Park River Port Island in Saarbrücken, the Parco Dora in Turin and the recreation of the former garbage disposal Hiriya in Tel Aviv. The particular local conditions to him are more important than creating a universal style recognized by everybody immediately.

The award ceremony will take place on September 10th in Munich as part of the Topos conference Strategic Urbanism.

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Amazon’s Headquarter Goes Green

Amazon’s plans for its new headquarters look like a futuristic utopia. A structure of three merged bio-domes with lots of plants in it will be built in front of the new main building in the centre of Seattle.

The intent behind the design is to create an alternative environment where employees can work and socialize in a more natural park-like setting. The facility will incorporate dining, meeting and lounge spaces and a variety of botanical zones modeled on montane ecologies found around the globe.

The design of the new headquarters was developed by NBBJ, who also designed the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The project is expected to start construction later in 2013 and could take up to eight years to finish.

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Retractable Motor Driven Sun Sails by SunSquare

For over twenty years the Austrian company SunSquare Kautzky has been creating shades for buildings and green spaces. One of their favorite challenges is the shading of complex glass structures. SunSquare works together with architects from an early stage on to find special solutions for integrating shading constructions into the structures of buildings.

The “Schauhaus” of the botanic garden in Grüningen, Switzerland, in 2012 was one of their most noteworthy projects. The IdA-Architects Stephan Buehrer and Martina Wuest supplemented the surrounding trees with a supporting structure of trunks and treetops made of steel, based on the Voronoi principle. The reduced shading system covers the tilted roof planes with a barely visible membrane and can be retracted when not needed.

Other interesting projects by Sun Square are presented in their corporate video.

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Superkilen: Copenhagen Park Project awarded

The district of Nørrebro is a multiethnic society in the northwest of the Danish capital Copenhagen. It is a vibrant place where many different cultures live peacefully next to each other. This quarter got the attention of architects, landscape designers and city planners all around the world: Its artistic refurbishment was awarded with the 2013 Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design by the American Institute of Architects.

Superkilen is a spectacular park project which was realized by the two architect companies BIG and Topotek 1 together with the artist group Superflex. The district has been divided into three zones, each with its own theme and color scheme. The square for markets, culture and sports is completely covered in shades of red. Streets, open spaces and house walls are shining in bright tones of pink, orange and crimson, turning a grey area into a lively dynamic spot. The zone with the most living areas is colored black with white lines winding through the streets. The largest part of the district is the green park area where hills and playgrounds invite families to spend their time.

There are one hundred different urban elements from over fifty countries placed throughout the whole district, for example a bench from Ethiopia, pipes from Israel and soil from Palestine. These everyday and free to use items are turned into exhibition pieces and represent the many different cultural heritages of the inhabitants.

The Jury of the American Institute of Architects commented on the award: “This project is a joy! This is not only original, but stunning to behold. It is noteworthy for its aesthetic approach, which is straightforwardly artificial rather than pretending to be natural.”

Superkilen is a city project which changed the looks of an otherwise very dull place into a vibrant and lighthearted area. It is cost effective and relatively easy to realize. The idea could be used as a model for other cities. 

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