Bright green, hanging and vibrant flora are invading the city of San Francisco, in the most global and ubiquitous sense. Vertical Gardens, an exhibit at the American Institute of Architects, San Francisco tracks the invasion both globally and locally, and Bay Area residents have until May 14th to catch the tour in all its chlorophyllic glory!
The Vertical Gardens exhibit grew to form in New York, in Exit Art’s basement project, Social-Environmental Aesthetics. From there the exhibition has been touring the country. AIA lent a hand in shaping the local incarnation, including west coast designers and artists. Many of the creators were on hand for the opening reception, their eyes aglow with planty love. Flora Grubb described local vertical gardens and the challenges of maintaining building-mounted gardens. EB Min of Min Day spoke about that company’s proposal for a year-round Farmers’ Market in Nebraska. Other presenters included Boor Bridges Architecture, Mundo Verde Ortega, and Rael San Fratello Architects, each of whom discussed a project, rendering, artwork or philosophy designed to get more plants all up in our spaces.
The end result of the exhibition is a collage of plants in urban spaces, both fantasy and reality. We see drawings of a Plug-In-Vertical-Farm by Claude Boullevraye de Passille, and renderings of vertical gardens and villages by Naomi Reis and the Harrisons. Alongside them sit ceramic planters and a live growing wall. Some projects have been realized; some are pure thought experiments (a rendering of connecting urban rooftop gardens would require a few local codes to change — it includes urban rams). Disciplinary lines, as so often happens with culture and sustainability, are heavily blurred (one rooftop garden refers to itself as an ‘eco-art’ project).
The quality of plants invading varies drastically, as well: in some projects, the addition of a simple lawn to a roof provides sufficient green space. Other projects require low-maintenance, succulent, or air plants. Still others seek to make food production as local as possible. Plants get in, on, under and next to us, oxygen-producing neighbors. As a comprehensive exhibition, Vertical Gardens succeeds in giving a panoramic view of a very happy invasion.