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Green Architecture: Sydney Vertical Gardens

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By Jody McCutcheon

You could say that the number of plants adoring buildings is on the rise–quite literally in the case of the Sydney Vertical Gardens at One Central Park, Australia. The marvellous hybrid of architecture and gardening is also known as the world’s tallest living wall, and is largest by area.

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Image: Murray Fredericks

Perhaps the success of this distinctive, sky’s-the-limit collaboration is no surprise, as both architect Jean Nouvel and botanist Patrick Blanc wield impressive resumés. Nouvel has been designing award-winning buildings for almost forty years, while Blanc modernized green walls in the 1980’s.

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Image: Murray Fredericks

Completed in December, 2013, and situated on the former Carlton United Brewery site, the land-revitalizing project consists of adjoining towers—one 116m tall and the other 64.5m tall—containing 624 apartments. As a dynamic urban village, it also reserves 16,000 square metres for cafes, restaurants, retail and office space, plus collaborative spaces for artists and architects. The buildings have been erected beside a 6,500 square-metre park, a green space large enough to host music festivals and an open-air cinema, a little pocket of escape from the surrounding urban crush.

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Image: Simon Wood

Jutting from the taller tower three-quarters of the way up is a gravity-defying, cantilevered overhang boasting a common room, panoramic terrace and community “sky garden” for the enjoyment of residents. Underneath the overhang, a heliostat of motorized mirrors angles sunlight down onto the gardens below, while at night it reflects an LED light installation created by artist Yann Kersalé.

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Image: Murray Fredericks

Indoor and outdoor loggias have been added to increase living space while exploiting Sydney’s warm climate. These extend inward from the façade on the north and east sides, protecting residents from noise, wind and sun, and outward on the south and west sides, overlooking the park.

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Image: Murray Fredericks

Loggias and cantilevers aside, Sydney’s Vertical Gardens is all about the greenery, with rooftop, central and wall gardens consisting of 250 native Australian and 160 exotic plant species, and some 85,000 plants inhabiting the 166m façade. The plethora of plant life covers about half of the building’s walls, representing an extension of the adjacent park. The 1,100 square metres of vertical garden insulate the building’s interior in winter and provide a natural cooling system in summer. With the greenery planted in mesh-covered fabric that absorbs air pollutants and breaks them down into fertilizer, the future of urban architecture looks to be a boon for air quality and urban temperatures.

There are two choices of interiors of the Vertical Gardens development: the East tower was designed by William Smart of Smart Design Studio and boasts luxurious materials, finishes, and colours, whilst Koichi Takada Architects created the palette, materials, and interior architecture for the West tower that represent raw organics, using natural materials for everything from the counter tops to stainless steel kitchen sinks. No wonder this is Sydney’s first residential tower to achieve a 6 Green Star rating. Among other accolades, it’s captured the 2014 Best Tall Building in the World and 2015 Best Innovative Green Building awards.

You could say that things are really looking ‘up’ for vertical garden architecture Down Under.

Main Image: Simon Wood

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