At a major intersection in Shin Nakano, across from Sugiyama park, you can see how several Showa-era two story buildings with shops below and housing above refused to give way to the mid-rise apartment building boom of the past decades. I love the colorful wall ceramics and roof tiles and the local history they evoke.
It’s getting colder in Tokyo, but I am happy to still see morning glory flowers on my mid-rise balcony. Just above is a salvia adding more purple to this narrow space.
I am not a horticultural snob. Simple daisies and self-sown grass can be lovely in the big city.
This simple pink flower thrives in a former non-space on a typical mid-rise office building. Last summer I posted a photo showing the full 5 story, vertical garden column on this mid-rise Shinjuku Gyoenmae office building.
Recently I passed by and was drawn to this beautiful pink flower with lush leaves repeating themselves all the way up.
Few buildings in Tokyo are as iconic as Tokyo Tower. In a mega-city that sprawls as far as Japan’s second largest city, Yokohama, Tokyo lacks a single center, a recognizable river, or a conventional view of its skyscrapers, unlike NYC’s Hudson River or Central Park views.
I like how the top photo’s framing of Tokyo Tower mixes auto traffic with mature trees and a shrine entrance gate in a nostalgic ode to the 1950s. The lower photo shows its reflection at night in an office mid-rise.
Recently I have been drinking coffee at Bear Pond on the street that connects Miyashita Park and Aoyama. On these hot days, it’s great to look up and see a vertical forest on this 10 story mid-rise that combines retail, gallery, and office space. It’s easy to miss this from Meiji Dori, but you can see it easily from the Bear Pond coffee shop. it must be great to work surrounded by thick trees and natural light. It also looks like you can walk between the top three levels.
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.
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.