Nanobiome Building Skin - Architect Magazine 2016 R&D Awards

July 20, 2016
Michael K Chen Architecture turned to science to perfect the design of a green wall in Manhattan.

Though green walls sound nice in theory, they can be a mess in practice. The mounting armatures often are complicated and costly to build; vertical irrigation easily becomes uncalibrated; and plants receiving uneven water levels or sun exposure quickly die out.

For the Nanobiome Building Skin, a green wall for a Manhattan townhouse, local firm Michael K Chen Architecture (MKCA) tackled these issues by using data and modeling to specify everything from the plant species and their arrangement to the manufacture of their containers. The result is a green wall perfectly tuned to its surroundings and ecosystem.

MKCA began by mapping the project site’s environmental conditions to identify not just which plants to select but also which biome the green wall would be mimicking. Working alongside designers from Brooklyn, N.Y.–based Local Office Landscape Architecture and conservation biologists at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, in Syracuse, MKCA pinpointed the site’s natural analog to the limestone cliffs of the Hudson Valley. ...