The idea of exploiting the vertical sense for the realization of the gardens comes from Patrick Blanc, a botanist and scholar originally from Paris. Blanc exhibited his first vertical garden project in 1994 at the «Festival International des jardins in Chaumont–sur-Loire – His idea was very popular and immediately aroused curiosity and obviously emulation. In reality, hanging gardens are a very ancient invention, even there are historical hints in ancient Babylon in 590 BC.
In reality, hanging gardens are a very ancient invention, even there are historical hints in ancient Babylon in 590 BC.
Initially they were created to make the facades of buildings aesthetically better, but over time, given the many advantages they entail, they have spread to:
- Energy saving as they increase the thermal and acoustic insulation of buildings,
- “Insulating” effect plants have an “ovating effect” reducing the acoustic impact of external agents.
- “Healthy” effect plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, they also capture polluting dust often responsible for respiratory disorders.
Their characteristic is to cover totally or partially the walls / facades of buildings and not only terraces and balconies; in fact, contrary to popular belief, the vertical forest (started in 2009 and completed in 2014) of the Isola district in Milan, is not a vertical garden in the strict sense of the term, but a building-prototype project of a new architecture of biodiversity. In Italy the first garden built is located in Milan and is the famous “Green Wall” built in 2008 in Corso di Porta Ticinese. 18 meters high, it has more than 180 different plant species. Also in Milan and specifically in Rozzano in the shopping center: “Fiordaliso“, there is a vertical garden built in 2012 that boasted of being the largest in the world with its 1262.85 meters of greenery, 44 thousand seedlings and 200 species of plants. This record lasted only 5 years, as in Bogotà (Colombia), in 2017, what is still the largest vertical garden in the world was built: “Santalaia” which every year produces oxygen for 3,100 people, with over 115 thousand plants covers 3 thousand square meters.
Fun fact: in Melbourne (Australia) in February 2022 a project was launched that includes a vertical garden that will host 12,500 square meters of green space with a path between terraces, bridges and skyscrapers of over 5.5 kilometers.
Obviously, there is no shortage of architects and specific companies in the sector to turn to to have real works of art created; Although much of the irrigation is done by automatic devices, it should be emphasized that constant maintenance is required to ensure that the garden lasts over time while maintaining all the original characteristics.
In Milan, ATM (Azienda Trasporti Milanese), together with IGP Decaux, (a project in its initial phase), is creating new spaces to promote environmental sustainability. The “Green Wall” at the moment are two; one at the Giambellino depot and covers 350sqm, the other of more recent construction (March 2023) is in Cairoli, with a space of 3×2 meters powered by a closed circuit and with a low-consumption lighting system, to ensure photosynthesis; if it passes the test, this creation will be intended for commercial advertising use and will probably pave the way for other green structures in metro stations.
But for those who have no possibility of building an outdoor vertical garden?
There are many indoor solutions. The principle is similar to outdoor gardens, but with some extra care. Meanwhile, not all plants are suitable inside, moreover to ensure a good supply of water, often even at considerable heights, the structure must necessarily have an automated water system. Usually, the plants are rooted in compartments between two layers of various types of fibrous materials anchored to the wall, therefore even the supporting walls must have certain requirements and “preparations” to accommodate both the weight and the inevitable humidity that will form. Undoubtedly this type of furniture gives charm to the house and above all ensures a good supply of oxygen.
Browsing the web there are some companies that offer “green furniture” of sheet steel panels, consisting of various types of lichens that do not grow and remain stable for about 5 years, although beautiful, but give little space to creativity. Others offer more creative vertical gardens, but the more the possibility of characterizing them grows, the more the commitment (and cost) that these creations entail. The advice, also given the significant costs, is however to choose professionals who have a lot of experience in the sector and to rely exclusively on specialized companies.
Article written by Mariateresa Confalonieri