UPDATE: Please join us Friday, October 9th at 10:30 a.m. to meet the partners behind this project! Details here.

 

Right: The frame of the living wall with native plants ready for installation. Right: The nearly completed wall before the installation of four stormwater tanks. Credit: Philadelphia Water and SHIFT_DESIGN.
Right: The frame of the living wall with native plants ready for installation. Right: The nearly completed wall before the installation of four stormwater tanks. Credit: Philadelphia Water and SHIFT_DESIGN.

Philadelphia residents and tourists in the city’s historic Independence Hall area can now soak in a truly stunning piece of green infrastructure. Thanks to a partnership between Philadelphia Water, the National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park and SHIFT_DESIGN, a breathtaking new “living wall" is now managing stormwater runoff from the roof of the Department of Interior building located at 3rd and Walnut streets.

And, if the steady stream of passersby who stopped to admire and ask about the project during last week’s installation is any indicator, the colorful grid of flowers and grasses is already a success from a public education standpoint. 

Featuring over 70 individual plants—all of them native to Pennsylvania—suspended from a vertical structure, the living wall collects rainwater from the roof in four stainless steel tanks. Instead of flowing into Philadelphia’s sewer system, which can become overwhelmed during intense rainstorms, the water is pumped from the storage tanks via solar power into irrigation lines that sustain the plant life.

The wall was made possible as a result of the partnership between Philadelphia Water, the National Park Service and the Pennsylvania Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Coastal Nonpoint Pollution (CNPP) grant program. A Philadelphia-based business, SHIFT_DESIGN conceived, fabricated and installed the living wall, even donating some of their services to make this billboard for the functional beauty of green stormwater infrastructure a reality.

"For Philadelphia Water, this project is part of ongoing efforts to promote a better understanding of our Green City, Clean Waters program," says Paul Fugazzotto, a member of the department’s public engagement team who worked to develop the partnership. "This living wall will inspire businesses and residents to pursue creating their own innovative, beautiful green tools."

Mario Gentile, founder of SHIFT_DESIGN, says that, like all of the firm’s projects, the living wall was made using completely locally sourced and recycled materials.

"This is a completely self-contained system, so it’s not taxing the grid from an electricity or water perspective," says Gentile. "We like to do projects like this to prove that it’s doable."

Drexel students Oliver Law, Hanna Karraby, Aimee Turner and Iat Chi Sin are working with SHIFT_DESIGN through a cooperative program and helped install the wall, which is scheduled to be finished this week after a two-and-a-half year process. 

Check out our Flickr page to see more images of this stunning living wall and the installation process.