Ten feet tall and composed of about 300 metal diamonds, Texas A&M University’s newest living wall is no ordinary garden. Hung on a custom-built frame, each plant module is lined with a layer of fabric and periodically watered by its own irrigation nozzle, which can be adjusted to suit the plants’ individual needs. The modules also include holes for easy drainage, and if a plant needs special maintenance or has to be replaced, a module can be removed from the frame with ease.
What was once a blank expanse of brick now hosts a variety of Texas-tough plants, attracting small wildlife and catching the eyes of students as they walk past Texas A&M’s Langford Architecture Center. Designed and built by two professors and a team of graduate students, the first-of-its-kind system eventually may be found off campus and around the world.
For Bruce Dvorak, associate professor of landscape architecture, the story of the wall starts on top of the Langford Center, where, in 2013, he started work on a green-roof research project. These specially-designed rooftop gardens can help manage stormwater runoff, conserve energy and reduce air pollution in urban environments. Before joining A&M, Dvorak had worked on several other green roofs, including one on top of Chicago City Hall that helped popularize the concept throughout the Midwest.
Dvorak later joined forces with Ahmed Ali, assistant professor of architecture, and a group of graduate students. In the fall of 2017, they started designing a wall of their own. One key difference this time around was the material. While most current living wall systems use plastic or fabric containers to hold the soil and plants, Ali brought something new to the table. He previously had secured 20 tons of leftover sheet metal from General Motors, giving students the raw material for a host of different projects and helping avoid the high energy cost associated with recycling steel.
More information about this green wall can be found in the e-news from the College of Architecture site, titled “Innovative ‘green’ wall features sheet metal, native Texas plants“.