Known by many as the Green Man, the French botanist and scientist Patrick Blanc is considered as a modern innovator of vertical gardens. As a young student, Blanc introduced this concept almost 40 years ago and since then has created nearly 400 vertical gardens around the world.
Most recently, Blanc has partnered with Robinsons department store, the brand originally founded in Singapore in 1858, to develop the Middle East’s first in-store vertical garden, which will be located at Dubai Festival City Mall. The vertical garden will extend over three floors, showcasing more than 308 species of foliage, many of which will be the first of their kind in the region.
Commercial Interior Design met with Blanc who explained his vision for the store’s vertical garden, but also talked about his early works and how he figured out that his gardens can defy gravity.
“I’m proud to be associated with a brand that is bringing an eco-friendly consciousness to life as part of its store environment in the Middle East,” explains Blanc. “I am very excited about this project because I will bring species that haven’t been introduced here before simply to show to people living in Dubai that many more plants than they think can grow here. Obviously, due to the climate, the bigger challenge will be working on outdoor vertical gardens, but as a scientist, I know to select the right species. I am just now finishing work with architect Jean Nouvelle in Kuala Lumpur where we introduced some 243 different plant species.”
The soon-to-be-launched Robinsons store and Blanc’s green walls will be showcased on the exterior façade as well as the interior atrium.
“We are honoured to partner with Patrick Blanc, whose passion and vision has been essential to the development of our brand’s eco ethos. This project is our initial step and our first showcase of how we aim to reimagine a sensorial experience for our Robinsons patrons,” says Thierry Prevost, managing director of the fashion and department store in Al-Futtaim Retail.
Blanc’s vertical gardens are far more than just pretty walls as Blanc has studied plant growth on expeditions around the world and currently works at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, where he specialises in plants from tropical forests.
At age 19, he took his first trip to Malaysia where he saw lush plants that grew up steep vertical cliffs and from the humid tree trunks. Realising that plants could sprout at any height and not merely from the ground, from then on Blanc has been imitating what he saw in nature.
The first article about his work was published in 1978. It was a story about the young student who was growing plants in a very strange way. His pilot garden was then planted on the façade of the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in Paris in 1986, and eight years later Blanc created a vertical garden at France’s Chaumont-Sur-Loire garden festival.
“Suddenly everybody was interested,” he says. “In the last seven years, everyone has been talking about green walls, while 20 years ago I was the only one doing it. But, I’m happy that this concept has become more popular, and it is very useful for cities. More than half the population is now living in cities and have less and less connection with nature,” says Blanc. “With space becoming a premium in highly populated cities, vertical gardens are occupying free space. If it is done properly, it is self-sustainable and requires little maintenance.”
With projects in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, Blanc has been working in the Middle East and is familiar with the desert climate. He also designed several indoor vertical gardens along the corridors inside Sofitel The Palm Dubai.
“Indoor vertical gardens offer a different type of experience. It is something that is very comfortable. People can get close to the wall, they can smell it, and suddenly the plants become a living friendly object rather than a plant in a pot,” explains the French botanist.
For more images visit Blanc’s website www.verticalgardenpatrickblanc.com