At one time, Paradise Park Children's Centre in London had a lush vertical hydroponic garden covering certain portions of the structure. That time is no more, reports The Architects' Journal, the BBC, and the London Evening Standard. The building, designed by DSDHA, called for a living wall to mitigate against planting the structure on a portion of open park space. DSDHA retained landscape architect Marie Clarke and had the green wall system installed at a cost of £100,000.
According to the Architects' Journal, a spokesperson for Islington Council said, "The wall was the first of its type to be installed in the UK and, as with anything new, carried a certain element of risk … Of course, we're disappointed that it hasn't thrived. It seems this could be down to its design and we're looking at the best way to restore it."
To which, Tim Newark, Islington Taxpayers' Alliance, responded that the green wall was a costly waste of taxpayer money: "The architects should have worked out all the problems before it was installed … The council should not experiment with taxpayers' money."
It's an interesting situation. A lot of green technology is new and using it will certainly be an experiment. Plus, here in the states, public money is chasing LEED and green building, so there will be some high profile blunders — kind of like this one. But after reviewing all the commentary and various articles, there's still no clear cut articulation of the what exactly happened. Why did Paradise Park Children Centre's living wall die? Was it the design? Construction? Maintenance? Or some combination of all three.
One of the guys in charge of maintenance told the London Evening Standard that the fancy watering system never worked. It either underwatered or overwatered the plants. So although some observers seem to want to blame the lack of maintenance for the wall's death, there's something more to the story. Maybe it was designed to require too much maintenance?
The industry as a whole will be better off knowing what worked and what didn't so let's hope litigation doesn't muddy the facts. We'll keep monitoring the situation.
Update 9/22/09: New discussion on The Architect's Journal.