Artists, designers and environmental visionaries have all been known to use plants as functional, beautiful pieces of art. As more people become aware of biophilia, the beneficial relationship between humans and plants, there’s an increasing awareness of and appreciation for these amazing installations. Here are five fascinating “living art” destinations across America and Canada.
University of New England’s “Breathing Wall”
At the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine, students enjoy walking by and gazing upon a magnificent living wall that measures over 400 square feet and contains more than 960 plants. This thriving living art not only helps to purify the air but also provides a calming, stress-reducing focal point. Nicknamed the “Breathing Wall”, the installation features five different varieties of tropical shrubs and is enjoyed by teachers, professors and visitors alike.
Chicago’s Rooftop Wheat Prairie
Rooftop gardens usually feature small trees, flowers, or even vegetables. But one Chicago architecture and urban design firm took rooftop gardening to a new level: Studio Gang worked with a team of local designers to install and maintain an entire wheat field on their rooftop. The massive project, covering almost 5,000 square feet, featured winter wheat, wildflowers, shrubs, and trees. This mini-prairie became a thriving ecosystem that successfully produced a staple crop: students and volunteers harvested more than 60 pounds of wheat, and the grain was taken to a local mill where it was ground into high-grade pastry flour. This rooftop green space is not just functional, but beautiful, too. Known as “The Treehouse”, the rooftop is also one of Chicago’s most popular event spaces.
Eco-sculptures of Burnaby
Every summer in British Columbia, residents of Burnaby are treated to the sight of ‘eco-sculptures‘, a living art fusion composed of metal framework, soil, and plants. The sculptures are placed around the city in public parks and other community areas, and they represent animals from the local area and around the world. Horses prance at Deer Lake Park and bears lumber at the base of Burnaby Mountain. Locals love their signature sculptures, and they play an active role in building them. Horticulturists and designers create the metal structures that form the basis for each sculpture, and then stuff them with soil and cover them with landscape fabric. Then, everyone pitches in to insert various plants according to the artist’s directions. The result is a beautifully growing piece of living art. The
Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
This 158-acre botanical garden located in Madison, Wisconsin, features themed indoor and outdoor gardens, a tropical conservatory, sculpture gardens… and an incredibly large and diverse collection of carnivorous plants! The Kenneth E. Nelson Carnivorous Plant House features the ever-popular Venus Flytraps, along with pitcher plants, sundews, butterworts and other meat-eating plants from around the world. While eating lunch or sipping coffee, visitors can also enjoy a living plant wall in the garden cafe. The vertical structure was recently installed in 2017 and continues to delight guests today.
A Giant Living Bouquet in New York City
Imagine driving the bustling streets of New York, and then coming face to face with a 40-foot long, eight-foot-tall giant flowering bouquet! That’s exactly what New Yorkers saw this spring thanks to the “Broadway Bouquet” installation created by a local landscape design firm. Instead of the ubiquitous cut flowers that make up a typical bouquet, this living bouquet was composed of small trees and flowering shrubs. The temporary bouquet was created as part of the NYC/DOT Car Free Earth Day event on April 21 and illustrated the boundless possibilities of living space that would normally be taken up by a stream of traffic and cars.
These magnificent gardens, living art installations, and thriving sculptures are just a few examples of biophilia at work. Whether you live nearby or are just passing through, make sure to visit and experience these wonders for yourself.
Biophilic design still carries the assumption of a quirky or artistic architectural experiment. But growing scientific evidence clearly states the various benefits of incorporating biophilic elements, proving that this trend of today will soon become the norm of tomorrow. As described by Executive Producer Stephen Kellert from the movie “Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life”:
“Biophilic Design is an innovative way of designing the places where we live, work, and learn. We need nature in a deep and fundamental fashion, but we have often designed our cities and suburbs in ways that both degrade the environment and alienate us from nature.”
The best place to appreciate biophilic design is in Europe’s architectural landscape, where natural elements can be found even in ancient structures built centuries ago. In addition, with growing consciousness concerning the environment, holistic living and employee rights, significant building regulations have been set in place. Keeping that in mind, modern architects are designing some of the finest examples of biophilic buildings, each project displaying unique workmanship and exquisite beauty.
1. Selgas Cano, Spain
Located in Madrid, the Spanish architecture firm Selgas Cano designed its office in the form of an aerodynamic tube, encompassing its employees with magnificent views of the beautiful forest around them.
The curving fiberglass glass wall gives the building a streamlined look and allows for natural light to enter the space. Desks lined along the wall allow employees to be level with the forest floor, while spherical lanterns light up workspaces at night. Half of the structure is submerged in the earth, which creates a natural system of insulation. This comes in handy especially during the hot summers, when the building keeps cool with no need for air conditioning.
2. Tree House Hotel, Sweden
The Tree House Hotel, also known as the Mirror Cube, is a series of tree hotels providing a one-of-a-kind experience for guests. Located close to the village of Harads, the hotel is unique for its proximity to the Arctic Circle. The brainchild of designers Tham & Videgård Arkitekter, the structure is a 4 X 4 X 4 lightweight design made of aluminum and mirrored glass. Hanging from a tree trunk, the hotel is accessed via a rope bridge connected to the next tree.
The entire structure is camouflaged by the exterior facade which reflects the surrounding forest canopy. In addition, the glass panes are laminated with a certain bandwidth of ultraviolet color. This prevents birds from colliding with the glass. The interior is made of plywood and can accommodate two guests.
3. Bosco Verticale, Italy
One of the most ambitious biophilic projects in Europe can be found in Milan. Meaning “Vertical Forest”, Bosco Verticale is an impressive solution by Italian architect Stefano Boeri to tackle the city’s air pollution. According to statistics, Milan is one of the most polluted cities in Europe.
Residential high-rises host a diverse range of flora including shrubs, small plants, and large trees. For example, the Porta Nuova Isola district has over 500 medium and large trees, 300 small trees, 5,000 shrubs and 11,000 plants. These plants have the ability to convert 44,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into oxygen on an annual basis. The trees also act a screen for dust particles, a noise filter, as well as a natural coolant. Aerial arborists regularly groom the vegetation, as well as examine the trees to ensure they are secure at heights of 400 feet high.
4. Bayerischer Hof Hotel, Germany
Designed by Jouin Manku Studio, the Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Munich exudes sophistication and class. The use of natural elements, forms, textures, and colors ensures that the hotel serves as a retreat for guests. One major highlight of the hotel is its lounge.
While soft green textures make up the walls, the flooring of the lounge is a smooth alternation between textures like carpeting, stone, and wood. The booths in the restaurant feature backlit panels carved to imitate the mountainous terrain of the Bavarian countryside. The huge floor to ceiling windows allows plenty of natural light to fill the lounge space. Guests can recline back on the wood crafted and leather bound furniture while enjoying the robust curvaceous fireplace. In addition, the terrace provides breathtaking views of the city and the mountains.
5. Juvet Landscape Hotel, Norway
Juvet Landscape Hotel is Europe’s first landscape hotel. Blending elements of Norwegian culture, history and contemporary architecture, the hotel is a product of traditional building ideas and craftsmanship.
Located in Burtigarden farm at Alstad in rural Norway, the hotel consists of nine rooms situated on separate sites. Seven of the rooms are landscape rooms, and are essentially “cubes” on stilts, with glass walls that provide stunning views of the valley and gorge. While the rooms feature dark interiors to avoid detracting from the scenery, the bathroom receives sunlight even in the heart of winter. Guests can also enjoy the on-site spa designed to mimic a cave with flowing water, as well as communal meals at the restored farmhouse.