Botanist Patrick Blanc has been bringing the wilds of the rain forests to Parisian walls for over 30 years, most recently at the Jean Nouvel‚Äìdesigned Quai Branly museum. One lucky family, however, doesn‚Äôt have to go any farther than their living room to take in the wonders of Blanc‚Äôs vertical gardens. Oh how jealous Henri Rousseau would be!
Patrick Blanc is a radiant evergreen, bedecked in Peter Pantone snakeskin shoes, khaki safari trousers, and a lime disco shirt, with mescalin highlights in his blond hair. Even his vice is green: He smokes menthols.
The creator of the ‚Äúplant wall,‚Äù a living canvas for indoor and outdoor vertical space, is in high demand. His trademark technique for a top-down, no-fuss, no-muss irrigation system, not to mention the 30 years of botanical research on three continents under his belt, have made him an urban garden guru. Recent creations include the hip Pershing Hall hotel and the Fondation Cartier in Paris, the swanky Siam Paragon mall in Bangkok, boutiques in New York and Paris, and restaurants in Los Angeles and beyond.
Though he always kept a flat in Paris to be close to the communications agency he runs, his wife, Vivette, and their children moved from outside Rambouillet, ‚Ä®an hour‚Äôs drive from the city, where they had renovated a long√®re, an ancient, low-lying elongated house nestled into a garden. ‚ÄúBasically, when we moved our house shifted 90 degrees, and so did the garden,‚Äù Dimanche says. ‚ÄúThis house, for us, has meant a whole new life, a new lifestyle,‚Äù adds Vivette. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs not a purely conceptual house. It‚Äôs all about le vivant, le v√©cu,‚Äù she explains, the living, the lived experience.
For all its urban delights, Paris is one of the densest world capitals‚Äîtwo million residents packed into only 40 square miles‚Äîand it just cries out for a green manifesto. Blanc‚Äôs plant walls may be part of that, producing spaces that don‚Äôt deny the urban grid but weave it into the realm of the living. From homes and museums Blanc now wants to move on to the city‚Äôs least attractive spots‚Äîparking lots, public housing, train stations, ‚Äúall those places where we don‚Äôt expect living things.‚Äù ‚ÄúThe plant wall is not a criticism of the city,‚Äù he adds. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm only trying to reconcile it with nature.‚Äù