Victoria, once a grey and unexciting slice of central London sandwiched between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey, has been undergoing something of a transformation. For those of us that work the area it’s been painful. The redevelopment of the creaking underground station seems already to have taken a lifetime, with completion another 5 years away. We have a glossy new shopping centre in Cardinal Place, which aside from retail and dining opportunities has created a wind tunnel that you could test jet engines in. Recently Waitrose landed (a sure sign that any given place has ‘arrived’) and we’re promised a chic Curzon cinema before long. In another 5 years Victoria will be scarcely recognisable – still I suspect just as grey, but perhaps a little bit shinier than before.
Although St James’ Park, Green Park and Buckingham Palace gardens are nearby, Victoria is not then what one might call green …. that is until now. Late this summer, an entire block between Bressenden Place and Buckingham Palace Road was torn down for redevelopment, exposing the truncated facade of The Rubens Hotel. No sooner than this unprepossessing edifice was exposed, it was re-covered, to the surprise of everyone, in plants. The time-lapse video below shows how the wall was created by the brave team from TreeBox Ltd. Not a job I’d sign up for in a hurry!
The Living Wall, as it’s been dubbed, is London’s largest, extending to 350 square metres and covered with 10,000 perennials, grasses and ferns. The vertical scheme was devised by Gary Grant of the Green Roof Consultancy and is intended to produce waves of blossom throughout the spring and summer. The palette of plants is rich in native species and flowers that will be attractive to wildlife. Bee hives occupy the roof of our own building, just a hundred metres or so away, so this will be a welcome foraging opportunity for them. Small bulbous plants such as crocuses have also been incorporated to extend the season – these should be quite a sight in spring.
As well as benefiting bees and butterflies the Living Wall’s design enables rainwater from the roof of the hotel to be collected and stored. The water is fed slowly through the planting, thereby reducing the risk of surface water flooding. It is hoped that the foliage will dampen traffic noise and trap pollutants released in exhaust fumes. Acting like a green quilt, the planting will act as an insulating layer for the building.
Above all, the Living Wall is a welcome green waterfall plunging into an urban sea of grey. Next year it promises to be laced with a foam of purple, yellow and white as the geraniums, crocuses, buttercups and wild strawberries make their mark. Office workers and worker bees alike should reap the benefits of this innovative and eye-catching urban project.
Photo – Alternative Access Logistics