Vertical garden installation brings university to life

‘Living wall’ at Teesside University is home to hundreds of plants

A vertical garden, designed by architects CPMG, has transformed one of Teesside University’s buildings creating a three-storey oasis of flora and fauna.

A ‘living wall’ now adorns the side of the university’s student centre to create an impressive façade. The lush garden is home, not only to hundreds of plants, but also to a 36sqm TV screen which broadcasts information and showcases events at the university throughout the day.

The screen and living wall are part of the £30million Campus Heart development at Teesside University which has created an attractive focus to the centre of the Middlesbrough campus and also includes a newly pedestrianised area with extensive landscaping and a flagship teaching and learning building, The Curve.

James Sweet, senior architect at CPMG, worked with the SCAPE framework contractor Willmott Dixon, to complete designs for the unusual feature of the Campus Heart.

“The living wall was discussed and agreed at an early stage – it is not only an attractive feature to the building but is also incredibly sustainable,” said James.

“The benefits of a living wall in terms of sustainability are enormous. Much of our urban landscape is made up of hard surfaces, which contribute to insufficient drainage – living walls hold a high percentage of rainwater and attenuate fall off naturally.”

Combining drainage and plant-life with an LED screen required specialist designs to ensure that the separate entities were coordinated seamlessly.

“Combining these two elements can often be quite challenging with projects like this, but we developed our proposals with specialists to meet the university’s brief and the interface was relatively simple once structurally resolved. The living wall works independently from the LED screen and the drainage is such that there is no risk of water penetration behind the screen due to location and design.

“Plant species local to the university have been specifically chosen to encourage birds, bees and insects – making it not only sustainable but also extremely eco-friendly.

“This sustainable approach shows the university as forward thinking with its environmental strategy and it is a key attraction for potential students and the community alike,” added James.

Teesside University’s living wall design is a first for the Nottingham-based architects and director, Nick Gregory, is pleased with the results.

“We are proud to have been involved in the redevelopment of the Teesside University campus over the past 10 years,” said Nick. “The introduction of this wonderful feature to the North side of the ‘Campus Heart’ has created lots of interest from passers-by and compliments the newly completed landscape scheme really well.”

Malcolm Page, chief operating officer at Teesside University, said: “The living wall and screen provide a fantastic addition to our Campus Heart developments.

“Alongside our other developments they really enhance the experience for our students and staff.”    

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