GM Green Wall in Trafalgar Square designed by Shelley Mosco landscape architect

It is a pleasure to have a green wall in Trafalgar Square this summer, to cover some scaffolding. The green wall was sponsored by GE and the National Gallery, as part of its Carbon Plan. It was designed by landscape architect Shelley Mosco. It is based on Van Gogh’s Wheat Field with Cypresses (below left). Shelley’s planting design (below right) uses pointillist planting blocks for texture. The wall has 36 different species in 250x500mm modules, each containing 14 cells of 125x76mm). The living green wall is 4.8m x 7m and has over 8000 plants. Shelley is also interested in living green walls made with native plants,using a GIS system to guide plant selection for particular localities.

25 thoughts on “GM Green Wall in Trafalgar Square designed by Shelley Mosco landscape architect

  1. Tom Turner Post author

    I think we should! It is a much more accurate term than ‘green wall’ because (1) they often have flowers (2) they are works of art (3) I very much doubt if they are ‘green’ in an environmental sense (4) ‘tapestry’ is a Middle English modification of the Anglo-French tapicerie, from tapit, tapis carpet, hanging.

  2. Christine

    My suggestion for the name was also an acknowledgement that the artistic skills involved go well beyond (and are different from) the technical skills essential to produce a sustainable green wall. Although technological advances usually preceed stylistic advances.

    So yes, it would be possible to produce ‘garden tapestry’ that wasn’t green in the environmental sense. The ideal would be that the ‘garden tapestry’ would be environmentally sound also.

    It could be one form of green wall depending on how green wall was defined. [ ]

  3. Tom Turner Post author

    I like the idea of making a city in which all the walls are green walls and all the roofs are green roofs – with unvegetated walls and roofs used only in special places and for special reasons.

  4. Tian Yuan

    It is a good idea to make drawing style green wall instead of the huge parterre.In Tiananmen square, every national day there will be temporary flower show

    I hope govenment could learn from this and consider about doing some vertical shows. Or they could get insporation from a Chinese paiting flowerb-bed,ie

    I also interest in how shelly use GIS to guide plants selection. Here is an article about selection of Plants:

  5. Tom Turner Post author

    It would be intesting to find, and interview, the person who designed the floral design for national day in Tiananmen Square. It looks like art-for-children and I wonder if this was the design aim. They could take the age groups in turn 5-10, 10-20, 20-60, 60+ as target audiences. I think the older group would appreciate designs based on traditional flower painting.

  6. Lawrence

    I remember reading an article which pointed out that the concept of “kitsch” is an entirely western one and should therefore be left aside when commenting on Middle Eastern design trends. This principle extends usefully to Asia, too. Even a casual visitor to China will be, after a short period of acclimatisation, entirely unsurprised by the floral display in Tiananmen Square. Designs of this nature extend over landscape architecture, fashion, television, commercial graphics, advertising and so on into every nook and cranny of daily life in China, as though all posts of creative directors have been staffed by young teenage girls. I have had many conversations as to why this might be, particularly with “returnee” Chinese nationals, but no one seems to have an explanation. There are professional spin-offs: no modern wedding is complete without a set of highly stylized photographs [ ] and there are many “Wedding Parks” designed specifically to offer a range of suitable backdrops for this purpose.

  7. Christine

    Another important aspect to understand in design is the cultural (based on anthropomorphic considerations)and geographical (based on climate and light) value of colour.

    Kitsch I believe is an ‘internal’ cultural concept. That is, what is considered kitsch within English culture for example, must have a relationship to what is not kitsch. [ ] I have picked this example because we actually have one! (Not sure how we acquired it!)

    Just to complicate matters here is some social context…[ ].

  8. Tom Turner Post author

    Historically, the question should be easy to answer. It should only be necessary to find out when the first examples appeared and how the taste spread. A name would also be useful (‘Child Art’). Did it begin after 1911? after 1949? after 1976? after 1978? With no knowledge of the subject, I hazard the guess that it dates from Deng Xiaoping’s opening up of China – and perhaps from his visit to Singapore.
    Not sure about the wedding photograph being in the same category though. It is highly stylised but I do not see it as kitsch and prefer the white suit to the grey ‘morning suits’ worn at British weddings – and to the military uniforms worn at royal weddings. Why bring battle dress to the altar?

  9. Christine

    I suppose the question re the wedding would be ‘when would it be appropriate for a non-Chinese person to get married in Chinese customary clothing?’ [ ]

    What is the answer to this question? In these circumstances? [ ] Or these circumstances? [ ]

    Maybe the answer is here? [ ]

  10. Jerry

    Lawrence, I agree with you that it is difficult for me to understand why most of Chinese prefer ‘Children Art’. I think it is also depending one the taste of the clients. Also, I may not agree that it is a kind of art on Tiananmen Square. As Daoist Nature Idea has had a wide influence, natural pattern should be popular in China. However, it is not, Chinese always design something with formal and symmetric pattern.

    Re the wedding suits, there is a “hot” in Chna to take wedding photos before getting married. Normally,the couple choose a photo-making office, then the staffs drive them to a park and ask them to put various gestures. The bride is always too made-up that it will be very hard to be recognised when the photos are producted. The background of the photos may not be natural and wild enough. Westerners’ wedding is much better, which is much more ‘casual’ and simple except the royal weddings. And the moring suits looks very smart!

  11. Tom Turner Post author

    Jerry, I laughed at your description of how Chinese wedding photographs are done. It seems like cheating to take the photographs before the wedding and with the bride made un-recognizable by makeup they might as well hire another couple as models for the photography! But I can’t agree about western weddings being good events – they are like scenes from a pantomime. I remember going to an expensive wedding in a beautiful old church. The ‘happy couple’ had been living together for years but nobody had told the vicar about this and he delivered a long sermon about how many difficult adjustments have to be made when you living with another person. This gave me more to laugh about than I would expect at a pantomime!

  12. Jerry

    I always can not understand why they treat the wedding like a big show. What may bring you more laugh is that the wedding usually is a big formal meal meeting in a big restaurant!!! More interesting is that the people who attend the wedding will bring money to the couple to celebrate the wedding.The couple sometimes can get profit because of their wedding!(crazy!)
    So, compared with Chinese wedding, british wedding may be more easy!

    Back to the Chinese flora design, my thoughts is also about the National taste. The old generation Chinese maybe have experienced poor a long time and now they become rich, then need to tell the world: China is great! See the 2008 Olympic game :

  13. Tom Turner Post author

    Could the reason for taking the wedding photographs before the wedding be to get them done before disappointment sets in?

    It is believable that the older generation of Chinese having had hard gray (and navy blue) lives and the younger generation have a ‘child-like’ enthusiasm for bright colours and simple designs. It won’t last!

  14. Tian Yuan

    I think so and it sounds funny. But most of Chinese do the same thing.

    Re the style of design and color.It may take some more time to change. I guess that when the Chinese bride understand that cheongsam should be the most beutiful clothes in wedding which may be the time that Chinese begin to think their own culture and history and choose the most suited style and color for design!

    PS: I really can not understand why lots of short Chinese ladies prefer to choose wear white western wedding dress which they are not suit for! But the tall ones could have a try!

  15. Tom Turner Post author

    Wiki has what is, for me, an interesting article on Chinese dress – and the flowers on the cheongsam (Shanghai, 1930s) remind me of your example of floral bedding in Tiananmen Square. I therefore guess that this style of ‘child art’ dates from the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911. It may have gone to sleep after 1949 and woken up after 1978.

  16. Christine

    The history of Chinese fashion is very rich – and goes much beyond the cheongsam.

    “The costumes of the different dynasties all had their own distinctive features and appeared to have no close connection to each other. They represented the culture of the different dynasties and the wisdom that humans were endowed with during the different time periods. The attire of each dynasty vividly reflected and represented the life style, social status, ideology, and mentality of that time. This could be a result of the different characteristics that each dynasty possessed, as people of different dynasties came from different heavenly kingdoms.”

    Perhaps Yuan could tell us more about this costume/style of dress?

    [ ]

  17. Tom Turner Post author

    Beautiful photographs.
    I wonder how the history of Chinese costume design relates to the history of Chinese garden design (which, judging from the books I have seen) is less divided into separate periods than the history of Chinese clothing.

  18. Tian Yuan

    Christine, I do have interest in comparing different design in a same period. For example, I did some research about the Chinese clothe style in 1960′ Female’s:
    Also, I found a Park- Fuxing Park in shanghai:

    Then, here are them in 21 century:
    Fuxing Park in Shanghai:

    Do you find anything similar from the change of clothes and Park design?

  19. Tom Turner Post author

    A very difficult problem for China is how western it should be. It is obviously sensible to take advantage of modern technology – but does this mean adopting western design styles? And do we have a global culture where everything is to be much the same everywhere? Call me ‘just a tourist’ but in India I am always pleased to see the women wearing saris and sorry to see the men wearing ‘Mediterranean’ clothing. And in London I think the Africans are often the best-dressed people – when they wear African clothing for going to church! English people generally want their buildings to look ‘English’ while English architects often prefer a globalised international style.

  20. Tian Yuan

    It is an interesting topic but still very difficult to find the answer re the design style in China. Although China is a country which has very long history, (I think the history contains art history), the trend of design is getting more and more western. There is a extremely popular terminology ‘catching up with international standards’ these years. There is a joke in China: a ship ran into danger at sea, so the captain asked one sailor to persuade the passengers to jump into the sea. The captain knew it would be very hard to persuade them, but in the end the sailor did very well. The captain was surprised and asked: ‘How did you persuade them to jump? The sailor answered ‘I told American: please jump now, then you wil get your insurance indemnity’ – the American jumped; ‘I told the Englishman ‘jumping into the sea is what a gentleman would do’ – the Englishman jumped; ‘I told German, see what the American and the Englishman did – they jumped because jumping is sea is the rule and you must obey’ and German jumped. In the end, one Chinese man was left standing there. He did not want to listen to the sailor, but the sailor persuaded him successfully: he said to him: ‘Please jump, because the American, Englishman and the German all did it. If you do not jump you will not ‘catch up with international standards’. So the Chinese man jumped at once!!!

  21. Tom Turner Post author

    Excellent story! I am surprised that the western stereotypes are so well known in China. One of the best things about the creation of the European Union is that the countries are getting so good at making jokes about each other. This is a most welcome change after 2000 years of fighting each other. Eg
    In Heaven:
    The cooks are French,
    The policemen are English,
    The mechanics are German,
    The lovers are Italian,
    The bankers are Swiss.

    In Hell:
    The cooks are English,
    The policemen are German,
    The mechanics are French,
    The lovers are Swiss,
    The bankers are Italian.

    In Computer Heaven:
    The management is from Intel,
    The design and construction is done by Apple,
    The marketing is done by Microsoft,
    IBM provides the support,
    Dell does the pricing.

    In Computer Hell:
    The management is from Apple,
    Microsoft does design and construction,
    IBM handles the marketing,
    The support is from Gateway,
    Intel sets the price.

  22. Christine

    Yuan, it is good to remember that the Chinese were not behind International standards at all before the Cultural Revolution, rather they were just different and had different sets of knowledge and experience through dealing with problems and coming up with their own unique solutions.

  23. Alexandra Andon

    I enjoyed all your comments and think Tom Turner’s idea of a city with green roofs and tapestries walls with unvegetated areas designated would be delightful!


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