As regular visitors know, L+U comprehensively covers the broad range of vegetated architecture. While there are many technical issues at play, often the coverage skims the surface with some choice excerpts and some snappy graphics. This is not to imply that there is not a critical eye towards the functional side, and as a designer of veg.itecture, these all provide grist for the mill in producing work on a daily basis.
From the web-side, it is often near impossible to analyze these projects or vet them for critical flaws or mine them for amazing details. So we push them out, show them off, and file them as a potential visual option – that still leaves plenty of room for interpretation and analysis as they move from vision to reality to growing. While you can accurately model architecture to somewhat limit surprise and deliver an object that is representative in the built form, in landscape projects (most times) – a vision is a mere snapshot of a project at a particular moment.
A recent example of this idea is the competition winner from FARO architecten bv for a sustainable residential tower design. The project offers what is a common “The tower is designed to become a part of the park: it will allow the park to be growing on the public side of the tower in the form of green balconies. Residences with a view have to possibility to also have a private garden in one of the circles on the parking deck.”
:: images via Arch Daily
More: “Additionally, the tower provides a high level of social sustainability: the residents will be involved with the park, the park is involved with the tower, and there is a number of elements that will promote a neighborhood feel in this vertical city.”
:: images via Arch Daily
The question? Does it work, and how do you pull it off. How will the living walls along the facade be attached? What plantings? How does it evolve through the seasons? All things that as a design problem, must be grappled with. It’s not to say the designers didn’t think about it, but it’s just not part of the presentation. So we speculate… it’s what designers do. And, aside from the design-based issues, there is the longer term dilemma of that nasty reality: maintenance. In a recent post on the subject, Treehugger sort of references this with a necessary (yet simplistic) view in ‘How Green was my Balcony’ looks at a similar project to the above renderings, this proposal for Milano Santa Monica.
:: image via Treehugger
Treehugger asks the question: “It seems to be all the rage these days: Every building proposal has lush green balconies. It is hard to tell how it is done; when you look closely at the renderings of this proposal… one really cannot tell if there are planters in front of the handrails or if it is just sorta stuck there like Christmas decorations. Nor do you know who maintains them, whether each owner is responsible, whether gardeners have rights of entry, or whether they rappel down the exterior of the building.”
Definitely good points. Not sure what the motivation of the commentary is, as Treehugger definitely is one of the major purveyors of veg.itectural eye candy. The post continues by looking at the new Gwanggyo City Centre by MVRDV (termite mounds), Tournesols prefab planters, and Edouard Francois’ Flower Tower – giving some analysis as well for last years Knafo Klimor competition entry for the Living Steel 2nd International Sustainable Housing Competition – one of the first vertical urban ag projects that floated out in 2007.
:: images via Treehugger
So drip irrigation is maybe the key… 🙂 The bigger issue may be the very shallow hydroponics, and the sq ft. to growing area ratio – that I would guess makes for some major funding issues. But all of these things shown are technically plausible, visually stimulating, and with enough money, knowledge, and maintenance – can actually become a reality that at least refers to, if not becomes, the reality.
Treehugger is still on board – relegating the plausibility factor to locating greenery in common areas as the key then. “What is my point in all of this? Only that lovely renderings of buildings that show a consistent green envelope require a lot of technology and attention and do not often come out looking like the rendering. Designs where the green stuff is in common areas (like Daniel Libeskind’s proposal for New York) are more likely to get proper care than those where it is on every balcony of every apartment. But it is a lovely trend.”
Time will tell how these come together and grow. Maintenance is one of those hurdles we’ve yet to stride over, mostly due to lack of a critical mass of practical examples. The more built, the more we know. Period.