Patrick Blanc completed his vertical garden for the northern facade of Trio North, part of Frasers Property’s Trio apartment development situated in the inner western Sydney suburb of Camperdown, in mid 2010. Blanc’s vertical garden comprises 4528 native plants and over 70 species, including from the Acacia, Allocasuarina, Carex, Correa, Dianella, Goodenia, Grevillea, Lomandra, Poa, Themeda and Viola genera. “You can observe many of these species growing wild on maritime cliffs or along the cliffs and rocky slopes in mountainous areas, making this project a kind of ‘Botanical Vertical Garden’,” argues Blanc. Blanc’s vertical garden at Trio continues the artist-botanist’s longstanding practice of integrating nature into the unused vertical spaces of urban architecture.
At 33 metres high, Trio’s Vertical Garden was the tallest of its kind in the world at the time of its construction. However, it will be surpassed once Blanc’s 150-metre vertical garden at One Central Park, also in Sydney, is completed in October 2013.
Aesthetic/Visual: Patrick Blanc’s vertical gardens have become internationally renowned for their capacity to intervene in the aesthetics of the urban landscape. Eschewing the notion that gardens are only for the suburbs, Blanc’s vertical gardens introduce luscious greenery into the architecture of high-rise apartments. This project, says Blanc, “shows how you can have the same kind of nature [in high-density apartment living] as you could have in your house in the suburbs.”
Social Activation/Debate: Blanc’s project aims to expand the public’s conception of urban planning and landscape architecture.
Skills Acquisition: While not a direct aim of the project, Frasers’ commissioning of Blanc’s patented and complex vertical garden designs in Sydney will build the skills and knowledge of Australia’s landscape design community. Phillip Johnson Landscape (PJL) collaborated with Blanc to fine-tune the design and select the plants for the Trio vertical garden. PJL also installed the garden and will be in charge of its maintenance.
Air Quality: Blanc’s Trio project aims to have a direct impact on the environment and Climate Change. It acts, argues Blanc, as a natural air purification system that mitigates greenhouse emissions. The garden’s foundation—patented non-biodegradable felt—absorbs polluting particles from the air and slowly decomposes and mineralizes them, transforming them into plant fertilizer. In this way, the vertical garden is intended to be an efficient tool for air and water remediation in densely populated areas.
Water: A 36,000 litre tank collects rainwater from the Trio site and waters the garden through an automatic irrigation system. Any excess rainwater that isn’t absorbed by the plants and which doesn’t evaporate is recycled and returned to the tank.
Marketing/Place and Identity, Regeneration, Attracting Investment, Jobs: The Trio development is part of a larger regeneration of Sydney’s inner western suburbs as formerly public and industrial sites are made available for development, with the aim of producing a vibrant residential and commercial district and increasing economic activity. Fraser Property is proving to be a significant force in this regeneration, re-purposing large sites and providing urban development solutions that set new eco-sustainable benchmarks for building and architecture. Blanc’s vertical gardens play a key role in Fraser Property’s aims for these projects.
OUTCOMES & IMPACTS
Aesthetic/Visual: Since its installation in 2009 the vertical garden’s plants—which were originally seedlings—have grown 305 times their original size. After its installation, a spokesperson for Frasers Property stated, “The wall is now established and does much to soften and articulate the facade, adding a complementary organic element to the raw concrete and brilliant blues of the exterior.”
Social Activation/Debate: Blanc’s Trio project has been a key point of discussion in discourses of the nexus of landscape architecture, urban regeneration and sustainable architectural and building practices in Australia. It has received extensive media attention and support from major broadsheets such as The Australian and industry magazines such as Green Magazine, Eco-Business, Architecture & Design and The Fifth Estate. The project was also included and featured on the front cover of Graeme Hopkins and Christine Goodwin’s survey book, Living Architecture: Green Roofs and Walls (CSIRO Publishing, 2011).
The popularity of the vertical garden has also spawned a range of DIY versions around Sydney and other parts of Australia. Some of these have been more successful than others, but their increasing appearance is a testament to the way in which Blanc’s innovative designs have captured the popular imagination. (See: In Patrick Blanc’s world of vertical gardens there are no substitutes)
Skills Acquisition: Phillip Johnson Landscape’s maintenance of the Trio vertical garden has been successful. In 2011, it was recognised by the Australian Landscape Excellence Awards for Commercial Landscaping. ALEA described the project as, “the most remarkable and challenging maintenance project in the Australian industry to date.”
Air Quality: No formal methods have been adopted to measure the air and water remediation of Blanc’s vertical garden at Trio. This has raised some skepticism among critics, see: Patrick Blanc’s green walls are beautiful – but are they sustainable?
Water: The garden’s watering system has been fully functional.
Marketing/Place and Identity, Regeneration, Attracting Investment, Jobs: The Trio project has been economically successful and attracted a community of residents to its apartment complex. Moreover, in 2009 it won the Urban Development Institute of Australia NSW Award for Marketing.
Blanc’s vertical garden at Trio has directly produced jobs for the Australian landscape industry—specifically to Phillip Johnson Landscape—since it requires extensive and specialist maintenance.
Patrick Blanc was commissioned by Frasers Property to develop a vertical garden for its Trio project in 2009. The construction and installation of the Trio project took eight weeks to complete. This included inspecting the site and installing the garden’s control room (pumps, filtration, and tanks), wall frames and boards, irrigation, felt and plants.
Blanc’s vertical gardens are highly innovative and require a depth of expertise in the field of botany. To produce the Trio vertical garden Blanc integrated the seeds, shrubs and plants into a non-biodegradable, multi-layered, super-strong and mesh covered felt, into which the plants could establish their roots. After the plants and seeds were integrated into the felt, Blanc needed to ensure that they grew at the right pace—not too fast or slow—by installing an automated drip irrigation system made up of 11 lines that run across the wall at three-metre intervals. Each of the 11 lines releases water six times a day. Moreover, the plants needed to be correctly positioned. The more resilient plants were positioned at the top of the garden where there is greater exposure to the sun, while the more delicate plants, which needed more water and shade, were positioned at the bottom.
A two-member maintenance team (from Phillip Johnson Landscape) spends one day a month inspecting the plants, weeding and pruning, and ensuring that the structure and watering system are fully functional.
IMPACTS OF ARTWORK PRODUCTION
For an evaluation of the environmental impacts of the production of Blanc’s vertical gardens see the artist’s responses regarding his similar project at Sydney’s One Central Park here
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Battenbough, Gemma. “Patrick Blanc’s Tallest Green Wall Takes Root in Sydney.” Architectureanddesign.com.au, entry posted December 1, 2009. http://www.architectureanddesign.com.au/news/buildings/Patrick-blanc-s-tallest-green-wall-takes-root-in-s (accessed September 9, 2012).
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Perinetto, Tina. “In Patrick Blanc’s World of Vertical Gardens There Are No Substitutes.” The Fifth Estate, entry posted February 1, 2011. http://www.thefifthestate.com.au/archives/20006/ (accessed September 9, 2012).
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Turner, Tom. “Patrick Blanc Green Walls Are Beautiful—But Are They Sustainable?” Gardenvisit.com: The Garden and Landscape Guide, entry posted July 11, 2010. http://www.gardenvisit.com/blog/2010/07/11/Patrick-blanc-green-walls-are-beautiful-but-are-they-sustainable/ (accessed September 10, 2012).