The gateway to Covent Garden will be transformed into a 'vertical park' with a living wall covering over 1,500 sq ft of the building facade to be revealed in September on the corner of Long Acre and James Street - part of a greening initiative recreating the area’s garden heritage.
The wall will have varying tones of green with red, pink and mauve, designed so that points of interest are visible year round, evoking Covent Garden’s colourful past as a Flower Market.
Over 8,000 plants and 21 different species will be planted over an area of 1,500 sq ft with multiple purposes - to refine the quality of the air, increase the area’s biodiversity, capture pollution particles and offer the beauty of a vertical park. It will be watered by a drip irrigation system which will be run on up to 80% rainwater harvesting dependent on the weather and season.
Designed by expert living wall specialists Biotecture, who abseiled down the building’s façade to plant the living wall, the plants chosen have been considered for biodiversity providing for birds and insects as well as for their environmental benefits in improving air quality. Amongst the wildlife the flora is expected to attract are birds as well as bees and butterflies.
Installing the living wall had its own challenges. The building of the scaffold structure at ground-level could only be undertaken between 7pm and midnight, and many of the surrounding retailers including Oasis, Ray-Ban and Sunglass Hut remain open until 8pm. Fit out and refurbishment specialist, Overbury – the contractor refurbishing the interiors of the building – installed and removed fencing each night for four weeks to create a safe working zone between the scaffold and the public. There were also noise restrictions due to local residents so scaffolders communicated by radio to keep noise to a minimum, as well as using LED spotlights to minimise light pollution and meet scaffold health and safety regulations.
The entire scaffold structure was wrapped in a huge 2,500 sq ft grass-printed covering, an impressive sight that’s caught the imagination of thousands of commuters accessing Covent Garden tube station opposite.
The living wall is the latest development in the re-greening of Covent Garden which is already blooming thanks to over 100 flower crates and barrows around the Piazza, a nod to the market heritage of the area. Elements of the award winning RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden ‘500 Years of Covent Garden’, including 60 year old apple trees were installed on the Piazza in June providing a summer terrace garden for visitors.