In a month of humidity and heat, this year’s green curtain is gradually filling in. There are now eight vines, and the banana tree providing a green wall between home and city.
Walking to meet a friend for lunch, I passed this beautiful, lush green wall in Aoyama. Is this the wall designed by Frenchman Patrick Blanc? There seem to be several types of stores here, plus a faux church wedding mill in the back.
On my favorite Koenji shopping street called “Look,” a shop selling feminine French homewares just built a lush second floor garden. By attaching two long and deep planters, they have transformed this older building with new life. I love the variety of plants, and the way the garden adds onto what is already there.
The shop is called Malto and they are online, too.
Spurred by the energy crisis post-Fukushima, there’s been a notable increase in the number of mid-rise office and retail buildings with green walls. In an over-built city, vertical surfaces are the largest potential area for gardening, farming, and habitat creation.
Tokyo has far more vertical surfaces than roof areas, and we are only at the very beginning of creating an urban forest.
I have been following this topic for a while, and have watched this idea spread from notable public spaces like Suginami’s ward office (world’s largest green curtain) to apartment balconies, flower shops, and now commercial and retail spaces. This wide distribution across Tokyo and across building types is very exciting to see.
Some questions I have include:
- What types of plants can be grown vertically and for what functions: aesthetics, habitat, scent, seasonal change, food?
- How can green walls enhance innovative architecture and place-making?
- How can vertical and roof gardens connect buildings, neighbors, and wildlife?
- What is the impact on heat island effect, global competitiveness, and quality of life?
The answers will come from experimentation and diffusion. The photos, from top to bottom, are four green walls I’ve recently seen:
1. Hasegawa Green Building in Shiba Koen
2. Office mid-rise in Shinjuku Gyoen-mae (2 photos). The company that created and maintains this green wall is called Ishikatsu Exterior (石勝イクステリア).
3. Oimachi retail building near station.
4. Daimon office building.
These two restaurants, Shizen in Sendagaya and Green House near Omotesando, make interesting use of narrow, vertical, and roof landscapes to express their connection with nature. I like how Shizen, above, uses the narrow space between buildings to grow tall bamboo that rises taller than the building. They have a roof garden, and have painted the walls green.
Below, Green House has a simple yet attractive green wall. It reminds me of a small-scale version of Pasona’s facade. It’s a clever solution to the problem of having no horizontal space for planting.
On a small street, a residential building with pavement extending to the street has a fantastic, thick green wall of morning glory and bitter melon. The “green curtain” is growing from two pots on the staircase landing, with a simple next extending to the roof. It’s a great example of adding greenery on a lot that has very little exposed soil.
The bitter melon adds a healthy, edible dimension to this seasonal green wall.
I wonder why our green wall never got this thick? Perhaps the southern exposure was too hot for bitter melon and morning glory. This morning I saw a fluttering large butterfly, a resting dragon fly, and a juvenile lady bug enjoying the shady side of a leaf. A few days ago I noticed a trellised collection of morning glories on the way to Nodai has already been cut back, so I think the season is almost finished.
Update: A week later, on Sept 19, I returned to this small street, and there is no sign of the green curtain. The vines and even the planter boxes are gone.
A friend guided me to an amazing green wall outside Feria, a nightclub in Roppongi, in a small alley across from Midtown. Climbing the entire front facade, this four story vertical garden is densely planted and lush. I was told that it’s about three years old.
Here’s an image of the context.
And lastly the view from the street.
Feria’s website shows how cool the vertical garden looks illuminated at night. I am intrigued that the vertical garden is the core element of the nightclub’s visual identity, in person and online.
Near the Tsukishima riverbank community garden, there is a mid-rise senior center with two simple green wall of ivy. I wonder why it’s not fuller, and whether they are using rainwater capture. Or do the residents or staff water the small pots on each outdoor hallway.
Mori Minoru’s Mori Building is Tokyo’s largest urban real estate developer. His Vertical Garden City idea and Urban New Deal Policy are private enterprise visions for a re-made city that is at once more densely populated, more environmental and green, and more profitable for the largest developers.
I had the intriguing experience of being invited to witness a presentation by Mori Building company for a US journalist. Asked to remain silent so as not to detract from the journalist’s work, I witness one foreign journalist, a simultaneous translator, a guide from the Tokyo Foreign Correspondent’s Club, two Mori Building Public Relations officer and one urban planner. This is clearly a business where image is created through tremendous resources.