Italian architecture is positively blooming after the world’s largest ever vertical garden was certified just outside of the Italian city this week. The mass of greenery stretched across 1,263 square metres of wall space at a shopping centre in Rozzano just outside of Milan.
Created by architect Francesco Bollani and delivered with the aid of French architectural firm Montpellier, this vast wall of lush foliage consists of a total of 44,000 individual plants, which are built into the wall in a grid-like fashion the lead architect likens to building with toy blocks.
“It took us a year to grow the plants in a greenhouse and 90 days to build the facade,” Bollani says. “It was like building a giant Lego!”
According to the the shopping centre’s director, Simon Rao, the design feature will offer two distinct benefits, uplifting the shopping centres façade with the stunning home-grown feature and providing functional benefits by insulating the building and reducing its exposure to direct sunlight, thereby creating energy savings and aiding in natural interior climate control.
The plants will also filter carbon dioxide and act as further insulation against noise pollution.
“This is sustainable architecture, which can combine beauty with energy saving while respecting the environment,” says Rao.
While this feature is clearly environmentally sustainable, calling it holistically sustainable may be a bit of a stretch. Coming in with a price tag of 1 million euros, the garden wall is not exactly economically sustainable.
Europe has a strong history of delivering vertical gardens, with the previous largest such feature in Madrid reaching 844 square metres. The prevalence of vertical gardens has grown, as the shopping centre director would point out, because of their strong aesthetic mixed with passive energy saving features.
While the practice of incorporating green walls is sometimes criticised as being showy and representative of low-level greenwash, the mainstreaming of incorporating plant life into the built form should never be discouraged. This large-scale development is a sign of things to come in the world of mainstream of architecture.