Botanist Patrick Blanc transforms would-be drab urban walls into impressive growing tapestries. This wall belonging to a Berlin office building, is a living surface covered with moss, orchids and other epiphytes. The botanist recounts noticing on a journey through Thailand how plants like epiphytes could grow on vertical surfaces, living off sunlight, water and air.
When city life gets too hectic for New Yorkers, they flee to the city's many parks. For some time now, this has included moving on up … to the West Side. The old West Side Line has been transformed into an above-street garden. City-dwellers escape to enjoy the benches and paths there - and catch a breath of fresh air.
The high life
High Line Park, which was built atop the old elevated railroad spur, runs for about 1.5 miles (2.3 kilometers). The first section opened in 2009, and the second in 2012. But that's not enough for nature-loving New Yorkers - a third expansion is planned for fall of this year.
Hamburg's "Algenhaus" is the first building in the world that cultivates microalgae on its facade to produce energy. The algae transform sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into warmth, which is directly used as heating. This "bioreactive" building, developed by a private architectural firm, is setting new standards for sustainable urban living.
Museé du quai Branly
If out and about in Paris, between Pont de l'Alma and the Eiffel Tower, one may run across the new museé du quai Branly. You would recognize it by its living facade made up of around 15,000 plants of 150 different types. Blanc created his "murs végétaux" - or plant wall - about 10 years ago.
Fresh off the vine
Tomato plants grow in meeting rooms of the Japanese company Pasona Group, while other fruit-bearing plants drip off the building's exterior. All of the fruits, vegetables and rice grown here is harvested, prepared and served in cafeterias on-site. The Tokyo-based company's urban farming efforts are intended to help city-dwellers reconnect with nature and remember where their food comes from.
Not much space is left over for crowded Singapore's 5.3 million residents to enjoy greenery. But the architect duo WOHA got around this by integrating plants into construction of its School of the Arts in the heart of the city. It offers a green respite, both inside and out.