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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds>> PATRICK BLANC: Actually, at the beginning, I was interested by, not at all by vertical gardens. I wanted simply to have a biological filter for my aquarium with tropical fish, because I did love tropical fish. When you are young, you have not too much space. But the walls were empty. So above my aquarium, I did install more and more plants, because it was a free space where I could put more and more plants. So at the beginning, it was a biological filter. Then it became something like a collection of plants.

Skip to 0 minutes and 36 secondsAnd after many years, after when I did go for the first time when I was 19 years old in Malaysia and Thailand, in the forest, I did discover that what I did do in my home, I did see the same in nature. So I was encouraged, and I did do more and more work like this. At the beginning, Jean, Jean Nouvel wanted simply climbing plants. But Dr Quek, he said, ah Jean, no, it's not possible, you have Patrick Blanc working on the climbing plants. So we were, we see these vertical gardens, we need to have. So we had a very interesting work with Jean Nouvel. Also with all architects. Not all, but with the architects, especially a lady, Elisabeth Kather.

Skip to 1 minute and 15 secondsWe were working together to know where we could install vertical garden on the building. Because vertical garden is perfect but it's totally, it blocks the light. So it was very interesting to try, you know, in which place we can stop the light. Because it's interesting also in some places to stop and to have a interesting design of all these panels. So we had a lot of work to say. So we did say, oh, we put here, ah no, we put here. This one should be long like this. So, so it was really a collaborative work. And after, of course, for all the choice of the plants, it was only me.

Skip to 1 minute and 51 secondsAnd because Jean Nouvel is a architect, Dr Quek is a doctor, and me, I'm a botanist. So, of course, for all the choice of the plants, it was, it was my choice. But we had really to work together. It was very interesting, because we did do a first work before the building exists, at the trial on the apartment to test the structure. Because we wanted also to have protection from the wind. And because, I say, a vertical garden is made to enjoy the life, not to kill the people if something is falling down. So it was very important to have this metallic structure. We did do for the first time in trial.

Skip to 2 minutes and 26 secondsSo you see, you see here, finally, we have something quite new for the vertical gardens, with this metallic frame for security. So here, One Central Park, it seems, I know almost all the works, all the copy works in the world, it seems really that One Central Park, more than 100, almost 120 metres high, are the highest of the world. So, highest by itself is not a challenge. But here in Sydney, what is important is that it's very windy. You know, your town is a very, very windy. Climate, it's a good climate, not too cold, not too hot. So it's a easy climate, but very, very windy. So the challenge, of course, are the highest, is to cope.

Skip to 3 minutes and 6 secondsThe plants have to cope with the wind. So of course, what's important is to have a good choice of the plants for, especially for all the highest parts. So actually, you see, for One Central Park, everything well very well managed about water. Water is collected in all the different, rainwater is collected in all the different horizontal paths. And also this water is mixed with all the greywater. I mean the water from the shower, and from washing. So, and the excess of water from where the vertical garden, is also mixed with this. So you have a huge tank at the bottom, and all this water are treated. So for the vertical garden, you have only the useful water.

Skip to 3 minutes and 47 secondsBecause, you know, when you have horizontal garden, the problem, you lose a lot of water through the soil, lost for the plants. In the case of vertical garden, you have the felt, which will receive water. So under, it's very important that not only the plants have the water, but also all the microorganisms living in the felt, because felt is only 3 millimetre, but it's exposed to the light. So algae almost is can grow. And is exposed to oxygen of the air. And many of the bacteria and fungi need oxygen of the air to take the big molecules, more or less toxic molecules and to cut in smaller molecules on the plants.

Skip to 4 minutes and 23 secondsBecause when people think that the plants have a purification effect on the air, no, it's not true. It's not the plants themselves. It's the bacteria and fungi in contact with the roots. And after ones that did work, the plants can absorb those smaller molecules. So you see, it's very important to have water of course for the plants, but also for all these microorganisms living in the felt. I make vertical gardens since about 40 years. And the oldest I have in my home, I did change home, but I did keep the vertical gardens, 30, 32 years old. Actually, when I make a vertical garden, at the beginning, you see it's two-dimensional. It's like a painting. So it's funny. It's OK.

Skip to 5 minutes and 4 secondsYou see different colours of leaves, of flowers. But what I like is after 2 or 3 years, when the plants, each species, get its own growth a bit, its own architecture, and you see the difference between the different species of this. It becomes a three-dimensional structure on this, also. So I like very much my vertical garden after 2, 3 years. And after, they change, but not so much after, even, even if for 10 or 20 years. But it's very wonderful not only for our eyes, but animals also know that. Birds, birds never come the first year. Birds and the butterflies, they wait always for the second year to come when really the plants are growing.

Skip to 5 minutes and 48 secondsSo, so you see, it's why I want to come back absolutely in about 1 year to see the growth.

Vertical gardens as botanical art

A vertical garden or living wall is a vertical arrangement of plants and other organisms attached to an internal or external wall, often designed with an integrated water delivery system to allow the greenery to grow and develop.

Patrick Blanc is a French botanist with many years of experience in vertical gardens. He has even invented his own material to hold the plants to his designs. Patrick describes his passion for vertical gardens and involvement at One Central Park. He begins with his childhood influences including his experimentation in making a biological filter for his tropical fish aquarium.

Patrick treats his installations as a painting. There were technical challenges that needed to be resolved including the height of the vertical gardens and Sydney’s windy conditions. Water management is also discussed and the considerations for the best outcome for plants and air quality. With the plants growing and changing over time, he hopes to visit the building in the future to see how it continues to be transformed.

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This video is from the free online course:

Re-Enchanting the City: Designing the Human Habitat

UNSW Sydney