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Amazing pictures: London's first living wall dies

The UK’s first living wall in Islington, North London, has died just three years after it was built.

The DSDHA-designed £1.5 million children’s centre opened in 2006 with more than 30 different plants growing through a steel mesh on the 30-foot facade.

But the once-green frontage (see the full building review in AJ 17.08.06) is now just a host of brown, wilted plants.

A spokesperson for Islington Council said: ‘The wall was the first of its type to be installed in the UK and, as with anything new, carried a certain element of risk.

‘Of course we’re disappointed that it hasn’t thrived. It seems this could be down to its design and we are looking at the best way to restore it.’

A spokesperson for DSDHA added: ‘As architects for the Paradise Park Children’s Centre, DSDHA are greatly dismayed at the current state of the vertical garden installed on the building and remain actively involved with the London Borough of Islington in addressing the problems to do with the landscape and irrigation of this innovative scheme.

‘Since the problem has appeared, both Clarke Associates and the services engineer Pearce Associates have been addressing these technical issues with DSDHA’s overview. It is of great distress to all parties that the situation has not been resolved to date.’

The living wall when first complete:


An amended statement from Islington Council (25.08.09)

‘We are trying to work together with the other partners to resolve the situation. At this stage it’s much more about solving the problem rather than taking legal action
‘The Paradise Park Children’s Centre opened in 2005 and the green living wall there was the first of its type to be installed in the UK.
‘The vertical wall with plants growing from two sides of the building was supported by recycled rainwater. It was intended to increase the wildlife inhabiting the park.
‘It thrived initially and even won a national award but, as with anything new, it carried a certain element of risk. We are currently identifying the best way to restore it.’


Readers' comments (17)

  • The first casualty in the run to jump on the green walls bandwagon without an in depth understanding of the medium. Courageous in some ways, and yet one wonders how the patent application for this system will now fare.

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    Such a shame to see something not work out quite the way it was expected. We do a screen printed large format expanded aluminium mesh with flora and fauna printed on to it. So it won't die and will always look alive and full of life.

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  • "Of course we’re disappointed that it hasn’t thrived" - thrived!!! - judging from the photos, that's been a problem developing for a considerable period of time. Whole sections are seen to be missing. Do I detect a total lack of maintenance of this element of the building? Unless that was part of the experiment, I blame the people charged with looking after it...

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  • Try a Russian Vvne (polygonum baldschuanicum) They thrive anyhwhere. Far better than faux screenprinted stuff!

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  • ivy?

    I didn't even realise it was a new invention

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  • It was bound to happen - its a high tech, high cost, high maintenance design option. Best not suited to local authority care... As others have rightly said, it is so easily substituted by low tech, low cost, low maintenance solution of planting conventional self-clinging climbing plants in prepared pits... But that's sooooo last year, dahling...

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  • Look at the rest of the landscaping in the photographs. There seems to be a fairly widespread lack of maintenance, unless of course, it was meant to look like that.

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  • thats because this was fashion architecture...

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  • Glad to see my old mate Nigel Lees speaking his mind. If you want living walls you have to love them and pay for them. Have a look at the flank wall of the Atheneum hotel in Piccadilly opposite Green park or the restaurant in Drury Lane junction of Russell Street.

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  • All living things die........eventually

    Nigel Lee....great comments....i'm experiencing severe laughing pain.

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  • hmm, doesn't look like 'Paradise Passage' anymore.....

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  • This system uses hydroponics technology and is basically the same as the Patrick Blanc system apart from using rigid rockwool for the growing medium instead of polyamide felt. The plant roots cannot establish themselves and the growing medium cannot develop. The plants are reliant on a constant supply of water and nutrients to survive and of course when the pumping system stopped working the plants will die, even if they are being watered when it rains. A system cannot be even partially self-sufficient without designing in soil. - Mina Samangooei

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  • I am happy that someone is reporting on the failures of some of the greenwall systems. It is unfortunate, and I really sympathize with the directors of the building and those who were contracted for the work. But, the fact of the matter is that the Blanc system is a far superior system that has been based on years of botanical research. People can say that this was basically the 'Blanc' system, but anyone who has worked with this medium can see by the photos that it isn't even close. There are so many people trying to make a buck off of the 'greenwall phenomenon', but the right method is already out there. There is not much to improve upon.

    Again- it doesn't look like there has been any maintenance, and that certainly is a big factor, but it's also a flawed system.

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  • David Jones is correct - this outcome is due to sustained lack of maintenance. I used to frequently walk past this site 2 years ago and the wall and the grounds were seriously unkempt, with empty or dead wall sections readily apparent. Maintenance whether budgeted for or not, is the perennial issue.

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  • Has anyone suggested that perhaps plants prefer horizontal planting conditions as opposed to vertical as from what I can recall on a scientific experiment carried out in space in regards to seeds growing in zero G conditions, the seeds' roots sprouted in odd vectors as they 'did not' have gravity to influence root directional growth. Where maintenance issues may be the reason as to why this wall has failed, I cant help but expand on other probable valid reasons that 'may' have contributed to the failure of this system.

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  • Paradise Lost...

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  • Green walls could easily be provided with the minimum of design and money required, simply by planting climbing plants, preferably natives like honeysuckle, ivy and hop. A secure trellis would be all that is necessary with no onerous maintenance needed. This wall could be green again after one summer - and at minimal cost by planting a few of these plants.

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