In Portland, Growing Vertical

Big News:  The federal government plans to plant a garden directly on “vegetated fins” that will grow more than 200 feet high on the western facade of a federal building in Portland, Oregon.. 

the following info is culled from the NYT article:

It is part of a $133 million renovation, that the General Services Administration is undertaking. Donald Eggleston, the president of SERA Architects, which is overseeing the project for the G.S.A. said that  landscaping experts will experiment with vines and cover plants that can endure Portland’s wet, mild winters and its dry, hot summers — and do so at varying heights.
“We may train them on some vines in the nursery,” Mr. Eggleston said. “About 50 percent of the windows we need to shade every summer. You can’t take little seedlings up there in Year 1, because you won’t have anything up there for five years.”

“They will bloom in the spring and summer when you want the shade, and then they will go away in the winter when you want to let the light in,” said Bob Peck, commissioner of public buildings for the G.S.A. “Don’t ask me how you get them irrigated.”
Joe Vaughan, a commercial real estate broker here, said that the building’s office space would ultimately cost more per square foot than some other environmentally-conscious projects that are built new.

We, as gardeners, should rejoice at this, yes? well, I do not...if this is 'sustainable' then count me out...

spend the 133 million dollars on buying and creating open space - park space  for the urban dwellers in Portland.

People need parks - not expensive ivy (and that is what they will end up with) covered buildings...

what say you?


  1. It did say that this was 'part' of the renovation. Certainly not all of the money will be spent on this one project. That would be crazy. At least they are considering living plants as part of the solution to urban problems. BTW, I love the quote at the top of the page!

  2. It does seem more like a gimmick for the architect/designer of this project, than anything really practical. I'd rather see community gardens, or a program to encourage city children to appreciate gardening. It would be an interesting curiosity, but I think the novelty would wear off pretty quickly, and just become a maintenance nightmare. Interesting article though.

  3. I think they're trying to reemploy the builders and plumbers and electricians who have lost their livelihoods after the housing bubble burst. It's too bad they're not retraining them for careers for the future. What we need is to be retooling our society for a different way of living, and quickly. This is a gross waste of the resources we have now to do it.

    You're right about the parks and green space idea, only some of that green space should be transformed into urban farms. (Although Portland is way ahead of most of us in America on this transition. :)

    Great, thought-provoking post!

  4. At first glance, this looks like a lovely addition to the downtown Portland streetscape, but after thinking about the way it is being installed and the cost, it seems as if it would be better to start over with a new, truly sustainable building with some outdoor space for the neighborhood.

  5. Interesting idea. I think I'll reserve judgement for now, but I don't think it will be english ivy because that doesn't die back in the winter. Plus the city is working hard to get rid of the invasive species so that'd be counterproductive.

  6. Sorry, just reread the post and saw that you said expensive ivy and not english ivy. I'm not really familiar with a non-invasive ivy that'll die back in the winter, but maybe that is what they'll end up with.

  7. I meant to say ivy-covered building...the side to be vegetated is facing west - hot sun in summer(even in portland)....plants prefer east facing walls and eastern exposures for the early morning sun. the article also asked about pruning 20 stories up....thus, it seems to me that ivy - baltic ivy perhaps, (the thorndale variety) may be th emost suitable....

  8. Thank you Meredith,Lisa, Lam and Sheila...I agree with your opinions in this....


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