The History of Living Walls

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A living wall is … is a vertical arrangement of plants and other organisms that naturally remove toxins and unhealthy contaminants from the air that we breathe. They can be a complete ecosystem or a simple configuration of plants and they have been introduced to decontaminate urban environments. Living walls are both indoor and outdoor.


Why plants? Plants in their very nature have served the earth. They have been essential sources to us humans and plants have supplied us with food, clothing and shelter. Now, more than half of the world’s population lives in an industrial cities where concrete structures dominate. However, with the push for healthier environments the world is turning back to green and designers, architects and planners are including plants as a way to improve existing infrastructural aesthetics. Also, green infrastructure is said to provide cleaner air and water, and improve the overall environment, human health and human mental wellbeing.


History repeating itself?  Vertical gardens aren’t new. In fact, they’re an ancient concept with examples in architectural history reaching the Babylonians.  One of the seven wonders of the ancient world includes the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon.  

History says that Romans used to train grapevines, on garden trellises and on villa walls. Also, climbing roses were the symbols of secret gardens.


1920’s: There was a garden city moment  from the British and Americans which encouraged the integration of garden features and plant usage, for example, using pergolas, trellis structures and self climbing plants.

1988: There was the introduction of the stainless steel cable for green facades.

1990s: Cable and wire rope net systems and modular tellis panel systems enter the market place

1993: The first major application of the new trellis panel system was featured at the Universal City Walk in California. It’s a stunning example of what a lovely feature plants can make in a city.

1994: InCanada, in theCanadaLifeBuildinginToronto, an indoor living wall was created an indoor with bio-filtration system

2002: A stunning example of a living wall is found in theMFOPark. It is multi-tiered approximately 300 inches long and 50 inches high. The park structure opened inZurich,Switzerland. This project had 1,300 plants.


2005: Japanese Federal government sponsored a massive Bio Lung exhibit, the centre piece of the expo in AichiJapan. This wall had 30 different modular systems available inJapan.

2007:Seattleimplements the Green Factor, which includes green walls.

Today: If you are decorating, you always have the option to implement a green wall whether its internally or externally. All you have to do is make sure that your wall will get enough sunlight.  It might be wise to check out some of the kits which are very easy to use and put together


Also, when creating a living wall – it is also a piece of living artwork! So, have fun and think carefully about the plants that you wish to include. To ensure that you get the maximum environmental benefits  there are specific plants which are perfect for helping reduce toxins including: bamboo, chrysanthemums, spider plants, English ivy, elephant ear philodendron, peace lily.

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1 Comment

  1. Rob Halpern

    A correction: the first living wall was inside the tropical building at the Central Park Zoo in 1987.
    In 1992 a different approach was used at the Rainforest in the Cleveland Zoo

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