Patrick Blanc is regarded as the inventor of the vertical garden – stunning tapestries of natural green textures that are not only beautiful but also beneficial to the air we breathe. Born in 1953 in the aptly named Clinique des Fleurs in the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux, Patrick Blanc was interested in the natural world from an early age. Blanc visited the tropical jungles of Malaysia and Thailand for the first time at the age of 19, where he was no doubt inspired by the rain-forest conditions he encountered there.
After gaining a PhD in natural sciences Patrick Blanc began working at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, specializing in tropical plants and making expeditions into the field. Throughout the 1980s and ’90s Blanc was a multiple award-winning botanist with a legendary knowledge of plants – discovering a new species of begonia in the Philippines now categorized as the Begonia Blancii. Now, the green-haired Blanc is known as a pioneer in the field of landscape design for creating his first green wall at Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in 1986. His living walls are magnificent to behold but also environmentally friendly – adding oxygen to the air we breathe and filtering the air in stagnant public spaces.
Patrick Blanc’s most famous example of the mur végétal is the living, breathing 800 square meter/ 8,600 square foot exterior of the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris. Completed in 2005, this wall of green facing the Seine contains 15,000 plants from 376 different species.
The roots for Blanc’s plants grow hydroponically on a metal frame supporting a matrix of water-soaked felt. The thick felt mimics a mossy landscape and supports the root network of thousands of plants. A system of pipes feed the planting material with just the right amount of moisture and nutrients. The water that naturally flows off the wall is recycled back into the pipe system creating a self-sustaining closed system. Blanc’s walls create a cooling environment in the summer and insulation in the winter months. Blanc chooses plants for their ability to grow in this type of environment. Sometimes tropical plants have to be put aside in favor of species more suitable for a Parisian winter.
There are dozens of examples of Blanc’s vertical hydroponics to discover throughout Paris and the world. Blanc’s open-air designs can be seen in Paris at 83 rue d’Aboukir; on the façade of BHV Homme at 36 rue de la Verrerie, with a less imposing example at Yves Rocher at 43 Boulevard Haussmann. An awesome installation is located in a large courtyard behind 21 rue d’Alsace, also accessible via rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis on your way to the Gare de l’Est. Inside – Blanc’s greenery can be seen in the boutique Marithé et François Girbaud at 38 Rue Saint-Croix de la Bretonnerie as well as in the courtyard behind the Alaia boutique at 5 rue Marignan. The courtyard of the temporarily closed Pershing Hall Hotel at 49 rue Pierre Charron was one of the first examples of Patrick Blanc’s work.
Please see more via Patrick Blanc’s website here.
Photo credit : Quai-Branly-Jacques Chirac museum vertical garden by Patrick Blanc 13 years after its creation in June
By Hazel Smith
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