I Left My Heart [at the Green Wall] in San Francisco

Dion Zhang Miller

Dion Zhang Miller

I went to San Francisco for ten days to meet my new grandson. Of course I fell in love with him.

On Saturday afternoon I took a break from family to visit the newly reopened San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and report on the current “Typeface to Interface” exhibition for Print magazine. And while I was there I fell in love with something else — a green wall — something I’ve been interested in for a long time.

Designed by Habitat Horticulture, the SFMOMA Living Wall is the largest in the U.S. Measuring 29′ 4″ tall and 150′ wide, the 4,399-sq-ft wall provides an outdoor experience for visitors and background for art at the third-floor sculpture terrace — home of the Alexander Calder Motion Lab exhibition through September 10.


Living Wall 1



Alexander Calder, Big Crinkly, 1969

Featuring 19,442 plants of 37 different species, the wall is a work of natural art supported with a recycled-water system. Approximately 40% of the plants — 21 species — are native to California and the Bay Area, many of which can be found on forest floors of local parks, including Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods.

An examination of local ecosystems with similar conditions to SFMOMA helped determine the plant selection and composition that would thrive. A lighting analysis helped predict the evolution of its growth. Featured native plants include wild ginger, redwood sorrel, huckleberry, pink flowering currant, western sword fern, and yerba buena. The wall is primarily irrigated by storm water and excess water from the museum’s HVAC system. Monitored by moisture sensors so that it’s watered only when needed, the wall is held in place by materials made from recycled polyester and water bottles.

Wal Detail

My colleagues at the Garden Club of Irvington-on-Hudson and I will be consulting with local experts in the hopes of creating a similar — but smaller and less ambitious — green wall project using Hudson Valley natives at a public site in our area next year.

About writedesigner

Graphic designer, writer, and gardener Ellen Shapiro is based in Irvington, New York. A frequent contributor to design blogs and magazines including Print, Imprint, Salon.com, Communication Arts, and Etapes, she writes about trends, issues and personalities in design, illustration, photography, and visual culture around the world.
This entry was posted in Garden Design Projects, Horticulture, Public Gardens, Travel-California, Urban Gardens and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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