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Environmental Movement (approx. 1970-today)

After 1945, the greening of buildings initially received no new inspirations or impulses. The great post-war cleanup was the higher priority, both physically and mentally. Promising projects of the “Garden City” period slept, because the heirs of the remaining houses understood nothing of the art of pruning and had no desire to take care of greening on behalf of a few fruits. There was thus a pause until 1968 when the Eco / Environmental movement started; with it arose the ecologically-motivated greening of buildings. Many new green areas were created. Particularly with high greening, a few difficulties arose too.

Parthenocissus tricuspidata on a typical East-Germany building in Leipzig / Saxony
Parthenocissus tricuspidata on a typical East-Germany building in Leipzig / Saxony

The Protagonists

While the environmental movement is not an "architectural style," it has nevertheless significantly impacted our towns and cities. In Germany the environmental movement has profoundly shaped the urban landscape. Environmental associations were and still are at the vanguard of this movement, spearheading the return of nature to the city. Low-cost facade greening was intended to improve the quality of life in inner-cities: "Plant a wild vine on your house and all will be good!" And so,"the greening" began, with full greening being the order of the day. Innumerable urban funding programs were established, giving away thousands of self-climbing plants for this purpose. The model was the greening of social housing construction of the 20's and 30's. Competitions like, "the most beautiful greening project in our city" were also held.

Fleece vine (silver lace vine) in a pedestrian precinct
Wall greening with silver lace vine

Compulsory Greening

More and more cities, at least in Germany, are requiring a certain number of square metres of green space for new building projects in order to preserve or improve the urban microclimate. Too often the demand is perceived as annoying and then only half-heartedly fulfilled. One of our colleagues in the building greening sector shared the following scenario that recently ocurred: a large commissioned (not yet implemented) greening project on a new building was aborted by the contractor the day after the acceptance of the new building by the municipal building authority, because the officials suddenly 'forgot' about the greening part of the contract. The cancellation was then officially signed and confirmed by the official as unessential and 'dispensible'-- a 'stroke of luck' for the contractor's wallet indeed!


Wisteria on facade of a new insurance building; year of construction ~ 2000, courtyard in Leipzig/Saxony
Greening due to sanction

Structural Damage and Neglect

In the enthusiasm of a new project, some practicals can easily be overlooked. Namely~ facade greening projects really only function if a sound net of agreements exist, when all parties agree and cooperate: owners, tenants, and neighbors. Who pays the maintenance costs? Who will see to it that the autumn foliage is removed each year? If roles are not clear and each party does not take care of its part, a cute little greening project can, in time, become a green octopus, the vigorous light-fleeing shoots of which find their way happily into roof structures, cracks and crevices, compromising the integrity of the building and potentially causing irreparable damage! Is the home or building owner ready to hire a specialty firm to trim the 4th floor of her/his building annually, and pay for it?


Such greening projects are then especially realisable when they are not the result of anonymous regulations but are decided for the owners, who will take on the maintenance of the greening with passion and care.

Building overgrown with ivy
Building greening with unkempt ivy