Rafael Viñoly’s Jaguar-melting
“Walkie-Talkie” building isn’t the only London edifice making headlines as of late …
Last month, a massive living wall — at 3,700 square feet, it’s one of the largest living walls, if not the
largest living wall, in the U.K. — was unveiled on the side of Victoria's Rubens at the Palace Hotel
on Buckingham Palace Road. While visually striking, the perpetually blooming vertical garden isn’t just
about lookin’ pretty with its over 10,000 native ferns and 20 seasonal species of plants including buttercups, crocus, strawberries, winter geraniums, and an array of Royal Horticulture Society-recommended pollinator plants. Containing over 16 metric tons of soil, the "Green Lungs of Victoria" serve a much more important purpose beyond its tourist-snaring aesthetics: improving air quality, insulating the luxury hotel itself, providing a lush urban refuge for bees, birds and butterflies, and, most importantly, managing stormwater runoff during heavy rains in flood-prone Victoria.
Rainwater that would otherwise flood area streets is harvested in nearly 3,000-gallon capacity storage tanks atop the hotel and then slowly channeled throughout the vegetative 70-foot-tall wall thanks in part to a sophisticated irrigation system that designer/ecologist Gary Grant of Green Roof Consultancy
refers to as a “sustainable drainage system: "The living wall is irrigated using rainwater harvested from the roofs and stored in tanks before being fed through the wall, from which it evaporates." Also called an SUD for short, sustainable urban drainage systems
are flood-reduction methods currently being championed
by London Mayor Boris Johnson, who gave the ambitious Victoria Business Improvement District-headed project his full blessing.
In this instance, the living wall-cum-SUD basically serves as a giant green sponge.
Speaking to Dezeen
, Grant elaborates on the crucial role that the wall will play in tampering local flooding: "Victoria suffers from surface water flooding because of the preponderance of sealed surfaces such as roads and roofs. Occasionally when there is heavy rain the surface water drains are overwhelmed and flooding ensues."
Adds Armando Raish of Treebox
, the London-based firm that installed the rubberneck-inducing wall and will be maintaining it, in a recent release:
Due to the variety of plants used in its construction, we expect the living wall at the Rubens at the Palace to significantly increase the number and variety of bugs and bees in this part of Victoria, helping to promote biodiversity and return nature to this urban environment. The wall will also help improve the respiratory health of the people who live and visit Victoria by absorbing pollutants, an important feature of the wall given the mounting evidence that shows just how harmful particulate matter can be to human health.
As for visitors and locals looking to umm, imbibe, this mighty impressive work of flood-combating vertical landscaping, they better hurry: Until Dec. 31, the Rubens at the Palace will be serving “Living Wall Cocktails” such as the "English Garden" — gin, elder flower, strawberries and ginger ale — for $19 a pop. A small bar food menu inspired by the wall and “designed to incorporate plants and flowers featured in the wall itself” will also be available along with, naturally, a living wall-celebrating afternoon tea service.
Violet-wrapped shepherd’s pie spring rolls and rose petal macaroons, anyone?
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