Most people avoid urban spaces if there’s little shade to be found in summer and avoid cold and windy alleyways in winter.

We were asked recently to design a vertical garden that would also act as a wind barrier for a client’s outdoor restaurant area.  The site was in a gorgeous location in the North Shore of Auckland and it was an utterly inviting urban space. During our visit though, an icy wind ripped down the alleyway and very quickly I wanted to be somewhere else. In summer, this space would probably provide very welcome refuge from the relentless sun.

This site visit had followed one to Auckland’s central city earlier in that week – in Chancery Lane, another delightful urban space. But during our visits both of these sites were pretty much deserted of people and I found that sad.

It is not necessarily the design that is bad, it’s more likely that we have forgotten about the importance of environmental connections in some social areas. Wind protection, rain protection and heat protection are all good reasons to improve the connections required to make a great space.

Re-establishing corridors of vegetation is one way to help improve environmental connections and provide protection from the elements for people – except there is often little space on the horizontal plane to do this.  The vertical plane, however, presents great opportunities to better utilise what in many cases is simply presented as bare concrete.

Going up the wall to create corridors of vegetation provides benefits beyond the opportunity to improve environmental connections and visual appeal.  Green walls and green facades on buildings contribute significantly to building insulation – reducing the costs of heating buildings in winter and the costs of cooling buildings in summer.

We love One Central Park (pictured) in Sydney as an example of what’s possible.  One Central Park features 1,200 square metres of vegetation and is reportedly the world’s tallest vertical garden.

We think there’s a need to build a little resilience into our urban areas and the opportunities to do this seem to becoming apparent to the younger generation faster than expected and this is wonderful to see.

Leigh Nicholson


Image credit: “Sun scoop + greenwall” by Rob Deutscher. Copyright (c) 2014 made available under a Attribution- Creative Commons Generic 2.0 license.