The living wall is basically a vertical garden clinging to one corner of the hotel, and is the tallest vertical garden in the U.K. The wall was designed by architectural botanist (what a job title!) Patrick Blanc. You might recognize his name, because our sister site, Jaunted, took you on an exclusive inside tour of Qantasís First Lounge at the Sydney airport a few monthís back that included a look at his 30-meter living wall in the loungeís entrance that includes over 8,400 plants.
The Atheneaumís wall follows Blancís typical m.o., and instead of compost, he uses a special kind of thick fabric with slits cut into it for the plants, and they start to form root systems in it to absorb the nutrient-rich water the hotel drips from the roof down the wall. (No need to worry while walking by, thereís a barrier in place to stop it from dripping onto passersby.)
According to one source, Blanc was able to use over 260 different plant species (over 12,000 plants in all!) from around the globe to cover the 2,800 square-foot section of wallóand as anyone whoís experienced Londonís notorious weather knows, thatís quite a feat! Conditions vary widely from the bottom of the wall to the top, so selecting each planting with care for optimum growing conditions was a monumental task. If youíre dorky like us, you can even find a list of the plants on the hotelís web site, here.
This urban masterpiece has also been garnering a lot of press attention. Not only was it named one of Time Magazineís 50 Best Inventions of 2009, but it has also been featured in Wired, Fast Company, and The Independent. It even has its own Facebook page!
So why go to the effort of installing such an expensive, albeit stunning and distinctive, architectural feature? The hotel explains that, ďaesthetically it echoes Green Park,Ē just across Piccadilly from the hotel, and ďit provides an important haven of biodiversity for the capital. But primarily, itís just fun. We love it.Ē So do we.
Full disclosure: Eric Rosen was a guest of the Athenaeum Hotel and Visit London for three nights while on assignment for another publication.