Is the trend for foliage on buildings a fig leaf for poor design?

Is the trend for foliage on buildings a fig leaf for poor design?
Parkroyal on Pickering, a hotel in Singapore designed by WOHA Architects / © Patrick Bingham-Hall

Architects are incorporating plants and trees in their designs — but it is important to look underneath all the ‘green fuzz’

Spend an evening in London’s Shoreditch or New York’s Red Hook and you might think that we have now passed peak beard and are on the way to smoother chops. But what has happened is that fuzz has simply migrated. It has spread up the sides of super-high-end developments, towers and condo blocks. It seems to sprout from renderings on billboards and site hoardings, from the pages of newspaper property sections and glossy magazines. And all that stubble and bum fluff has gone green.

Green fuzz — trees sprouting from rooftops, balconies turned into forests, shrubs spiralling up the sides of towers. It looks like some kind of post-apocalyptic vision of deserted cities reverting to nature.

First there were green walls; spongy masses of foliage creeping up the sides of exposed flanks. Then Stefano Boeri’s Bosco Verticale in MiIan kicked off the new trend in earnest. Looking like a classy shelf unit in a garden centre, this rather original notion envisaged its protruding floor-plates as strata of shrubberies so that the structure itself began to disappear. So far the Bosco Verticale doesn’t much resemble the renderings. Instead, the white balconies protrude from the grey tower like an uncompleted model kit with a few bits of those squishy mossy green shrubs you used to get for model railway layouts. It is unfair, of course, to criticise as, presumably, the plants have to bed in and grow. But will they ever resemble those luxurious crops on the rendering? […]


  1. I believe that if green were added to most buildings, the substantial energy savings alone would pay for the maintenance.


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