Kevin Lee

American Steel Studios Assembles a Living Wall to Green Up Industrial West Oakland Area

by , 08/30/13

green technology, solar power, american steel studios, recycled materials, west oakland, california, Karen Cusolito, Groundation Foundation, Nick Gardner, Indra Designs, Wholly H2O, City of Oakland’s Rain Barrel Program, gardening, urban design, vertical garden

West Oakland is a sprawling industrial area that’s probably better known as the birth place of so much of the pyrotechnic art seen at Burning Man. However, amidst the smell of burning butane and steel girders at American Steel Studios, a green space designer named Nick Gardner is working to plant a vertical garden across part of a wall at the six-acre factory. The project will not only feature 2,000 square foot patch of succulents, but also a rainwater fed irrigation system, as well as array of solar panels to make the entire system sustainable.

The Living Wall is a Groundation Foundation project that’s currently underway to build 10 massive 10 by 20 foot frames made of recycled steel. The building team of volunteers plan on using this large steel grid, facing Mandella Parkway near 20th Street, to hold thousands of skyward-facing, recycled yogurt cups filled with dirt and grass plants.

To sustain such a large vertical garden, American Steel founder Karen Cusolito says the factory has been utilizing a rain catchment system to collect water all spring. The system has already filled one of two 3,000 gallon rain barrels donated by the City of Oakland’s Rain Barrel Program. The rainwater harvesting system uses just a small 18,200 square foot section of the factory’s spanning 263,200 square feet roof. Meanwhile, rain collection running all year could, theoretically, capture 400,400 gallons of water.

green technology, solar power, american steel studios, recycled materials, west oakland, california, Karen Cusolito, Groundation Foundation, Nick Gardner, Indra Designs, Wholly H2O, City of Oakland’s Rain Barrel Program, gardening, urban design, vertical garden

Nick Gardner and Karen Cusolito stand inside one of the metal frames [Image © Groundation Foundation]

To make the garden even more self-sustaining, solar panels will power the pump. Karen also shared her plans to add a LED array of lights that will illuminate the garden at night that will also make it look as though rain is streaming down the living wall.

The American Steel project is just the first part of the much larger biological corridor that’s already been started by the City of Oakland. The larger initiative calls for a new native habitat and walkway along Mandela Parkway that will be irrigated with recycled water. The hope is that these greening projects will help beautify the West Oakland area and clean up the pollution while addressing the Urban Heat Island effect. In another component of the greening mission, the Bay Area Beeways project hopes to bring back green pathways for pollinators—such bees and other insects—to return some much needed biodiversity to the Industrial West Oakland neighborhood.

Matt Bissell, the Project Administrator at the Groundation Foundation, told Inhabitat in an interview that the team is currently finalizing the frame with curves to give it a more dramatic and dynamic shape. The team is also welding the actual spokes that will hold the quart containers housing the succulents. Meanwhile, the team plans to have a functional wall installed by the new year, January 1.

+ Groundation Foundation

+ American Steel Studios

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