Expert article
Modifier 27 September 2021
by Birgit Georgi UIA Expert

Making trees and wall plants thrive at steep quay walls

Ivy-leaved Toadflax growing in joints between bricks
Ivy-leaved Toadflax growing in joints between bricks. Copyright: Edwin Dijkhuis
Building nature-inclusive quays is the task of the GreenQuays project and, at the same time, its challenge. How can nature be offered space in a dense urban setting where it can thrive? When changing the perspective and looking at other places, we see that nature itself shows up at abandoned places, where it spontaneously develops at former industrial and other building sites, along walls and facades, and between pavements. Not just herbaceous plants but even small trees grow from cracks in masonry and under leaking gutters. The team of GreenQuays takes it as inspiration and wants to explore ways to mimic and foster such spontaneous vegetation developments to green the new vertical quay walls of the reopened river Mark in the centre of Breda with the aim of increasing biodiversity in the city and creating a pleasant living climate.

 

The wall design as the foundation of the nature-inclusive quays has already been described in The brickwork story behind GreenQuays; the focus of this article is on the vegetation  -  trees growing out of containers in the wall and herbaceous plants that nestle in the walls. It mimics the natural situation, where plants grow in rock crevices. This concept is different from conventional green walls where plants grow on the ground and climb the wall or grow in containers detached to the wall. 


The first plants have been set and seeds affixed on experimental wall segments of the small-scale test site in spring 2020. The goal is to test the germination and survival of seeds and plants under different brick/mortar and substrate combinations and to figure out, how the process of vegetating, which normally takes several decades, can be speed up. The monitor results inform the design of the Real-Life Pilot site to be built from early 2022 on. How do they thrive? 

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