Patrick Blanc Talks About His Vertical Gardens
In the Talking Heads song Nothing but Flowers David Byrne describes a dystopian future where plants and vegetation have overpowered all the machinations of modern society- “There was a shopping mall, Now it’s all covered with flowers”. It’s easy to be reminded of this phrase when viewing Patrick Blanc’s vertical garden installations, in which the artist turns the sides of ordinary builds and bridges into a lush wall of living plants. Blanc, a botanist for the CNRS turned artist, has perfected a growth technique which involves using a system of slats on the sides of buildings to hold them in place, which eradicates the need for soil and allows the plants to be light enough to grow on any surface.
Recently, at a reception at the MOMA in honor of his newest book The Vertical Garden and his upcoming installation for The Athenaeum Hotel in London, Blanc delved into his artistic process, which is heavily rooted in his scientific practices. Small in stature and with a shock of green hair, Blanc gives off the air of a mad scientist, whose visible love of nature causes him to speak of his installations as if they were his own children. When asked by PSFK how he is able to maintain his pieces in such withering climates as New York, Blanc responded that the plants for each location are picked with great care– in drier climates he chooses coniferous plants indigenous to the area, and in rainy locations such as London and Paris he is able to use tropical plants garnered from such far flung places as New Zealand and South America.
In his newest piece for The Athenaeum, Blanc is helping the lux chain to, literally, “go green” and in the process creating a very intriguing visual specimen. Blanc explained that by putting these sustainable pieces in major cities we are able to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and have them act as a natural air purification system. Other global installations Blanc has done include work for the Jean Nouvel–designed Quai Branly Museum in Paris, the Marithé & François Girbaud boutique in Manhattan, Herzog & De Meuron’s Caixa Forum in Madrid, the aquarium in Genoa, the Siam Paragon mall in Bangkok, and the 21st Century Museum of Art in Kanazawa, Japan.
While there seems to be an overall trend towards nature inspired architecture and home décor, Blanc takes environmentally friendly design to a new level. Though his installations do much to liven sometimes dreary cityscapes, one wonders perhaps if his installations would be going to even greater use (funding and logistics aside) if he chose more desolate areas desperately in need of renewal, such as Detroit, to be the site of his works. However, in the meantime, it’s inspiring to see an artist who is attempting to bridge the gap between nature and technology, the future of design and it’s most elemental past.