Page C2.2 . 18 February 2009                     
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    Vertical Gardens


    The principal idea behind the Cartier Foundation's exhibit was to create a two-faced vertical garden 20 feet by ten feet (six meters by three meters) over the main entrance, both inside and out. Later, Patrick Blanc brought me to Vincennes and introduced me to his point of reference at the Parc Floral, a steep embankment where, for years, plants had grown heartily, despite sharp winter frosts and glaring summer sun.

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    As soon as I saw the completed project at the Cartier Foundation, I immediately understood that what I had hoped for had become reality. The vertical gardens could develop from this simple technique and allow flowers, grasses, and fig trees to flourish under shady cedars! We quickly decided, along with Hervé Chandès, to keep the outside part of this garden work of art, since the bookstore sadly prevented us from maintaining one side of the wall indoors.

    The foundation's architecture was based on vegetation reflecting the building's walls. Adding a real veil of plants to the building highlighted the ambiguity that I had hoped to create.

    This technique opened the way to new possibilities for my projects, and I dream of seeing one of these mysterious walls come to fruition on a much grander scale. Their mystery draws upon Patrick Blanc's extensive research as to which plants can flourish. He works on including a multiplicity of species before installing the ecosystem. Certain heartier or better-adapted plants replace others; others invite themselves into the layout. The system is fabulous, and the results mysterious.

    Patrick has become increasingly determined in designing his compositions. For example, a rather prestigious house that I created in Seoul is home to veritable tapestries stretching 50, 65, 100 feet (15, 20, 30 meters). For my project at the French Embassy in Berlin, the interior of that compound was to contrast strongly with the mineral Pariser Platz. Walls reaching 328 feet (100 meters) long and 115 feet (35 meters) high were to be taken over by plants, and the terraces as well. That project was not completed, but others of the same magnitude will surely come.

    A new element has been added to the architectural lexicon. A scientist has given rise to the integration of pleasing new sequences into architectural designs that, in today's environment, are in desperate need of them. This new vocabulary must continue to be enriched. This green art must be underscored by architectural concepts, which it must in turn supplement. It is through this reciprocity that Patrick Blanc will nourish our cultural heritage. The depth of his scientific knowledge will guide him.

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    French architect Jean Nouvel received the 2008 Pritzker Prize. Among his many works are the Cartier Foundation and the Quai Branly Museum, both in Paris.   More about Jean Nouvel

    Patrick Blanc is a scientist at the French Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Paris. He won the French Society Award for Botany in 1993. Blanc has created dozens of his admired botanical tapestries in public and private spaces around the world, including the Quai Branly Museum, the Marithé & Francois Girbaud boutique in Manhattan, Herzog & de Meuron's Caixa Forum in Madrid, the aquarium in Genoa, the Siam Paragon mall in Bangkok, and the 21st Century Museum of Art in Kanazawa, Japan, by SANAA.

    This article is excerpted from The Vertical Garden by Patrick Blanc, copyright © 2008, with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton.



    ArchWeek Image

    One of the office buildings in Jean Nouvel's Musée du quai Branly is covered from top to bottom in a lush vertical garden of temperate plants.
    Photo: Courtesy W.W. Norton Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Patrick Blanc contributed plantings along balcony guardrails at the ICF Building in Bordeaux, France, designed by Corinne Page.
    Photo: © D. R. Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    A freestanding garden wall — punctured by a glass corridor — occupies a central courtyard at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan, designed by SANAA.
    Photo: Courtesy W.W. Norton Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    A layer of thick moss shelters and fertilizes native angiosperms on a rock face near the summit of the Soufrière volcano in Guadelupe.
    Photo: Patrick Blanc Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    An existing building's end wall is protected by a thick vertical garden on the plaza adjacent to the Caixa Forum, designed by Herzog & de Meuron .
    Photo: Courtesy W.W. Norton Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    At Bukhansan National Park, outside Seoul, South Korea, disintegrating rock slabs welcome several plant species in their many cracks.
    Photo: Patrick Blanc Extra Large Image

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    The roots of a fig tree have engulfed a bust of Buddha at Wat Mahathat in Thailand.
    Photo: Rene Ehrhardt Extra Large Image

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    The Vertical Garden by Patrick Blanc.
    Image: W.W. Norton Extra Large Image


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