Site + Structure: Integrating Green Facade Walls in Park Design

Architype presentsDean Hill
Dean Hill, ASLADean Hill, ASLA, CGP is the Director of Sustainability at greenscreen®, the leader in green facade technology since ...
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Urban park design has recently received an unprecedented amount of exposure due to the successes of New York City’s High Line, Toronto’s Waterfront and the recently completed National Mall Design Competition.  Urban dwellers and developers are including close proximity to outdoor spaces as requirements in determining their housing purchase habits.  These urban oases incorporate dynamic design that serves users both functionally, recreationally, aesthetically and restoratively.   Park designers have looked at the incorporation of green facade walls to help provide the adaptability necessary to meet site and structure programming requirements.   Two recent park projects in the Washington, DC area and others across North America highlight this adaptability and provide distinctly different levels of design complexity to urban park integration.


Designed by Philadelphia based land planning firm, Wallace Roberts and Todd, Georgetown Waterfront Park sits on a gentle curve of the Potomac River directly across from Roosevelt Island with views west to the Key Bridge and to the east of the Kennedy Center and Watergate Hotel.  The western section from Wisconsin Avenue to Key Bridge is primarily pastoral with walkways, benches, overlooks, large open green areas, and a labyrinth, while the eastern portion of the park from 31st St. to Wisconsin Avenue has been designed for more active use.  A key component to the eastern portion is an undulating pergola structure that incorporates greenscreen® panels in a horizontal application.  The tensioned structure designed to emulate the waves of the adjacent river provides a dappled shade effect for park users while sitting on shaded, custom benches.  This overhead, horizontal application mimics the design of the long standing pergola installation at Fountain Park in Playa Vista, CA.

Completed in 1999, the Fountain Park pergola structure incorporates tapered greenscreen® panels as an overhead plane and facilitates the growth of Wisteria and Royal Trumpet Vine to provide shade by the use of custom square columns.  Both installations provide park users with definitive spaces to relax, gather socially and experience nature in an urban environment.

Across the Nation’s Capital on the banks of the Anacostia River sits The Yards, designed by M. Paul Friedberg and Partners.  This dynamic, park space reclaims a former industrial waterfront site and creates a world class park in combination with mixed use development.  Working as part of an interdisciplinary team with Shalom Baranes Architects, Forest City Enterprises Inc. and Ruppert Landscape, the landscape architects have designed wall mounted greenscreen® trellis panels to gently wrap and echo the lines of the concrete retaining walls and stairways.  The complex design demanded attention to detail in the manufacturing and installation phases due to the curvilinear aspects of the lower wall, cutouts to accommodate lighting fixtures and notching to follow the outline of the stair tread along the walls.  The custom panels with planted combinations of Clematis, Climbing Hydrangea and Boston Ivy will add an additional dimension of vertical vegetation while providing an increase in cooling benefit to ambient air temperatures through evapotranspiration.


Urban park design also demands an adaptability to provide simple, functional requirements like delineation of space and safety in public spaces.  Anniversary Park in Hollywood, FL is a model in the functional integration of green facade trellis panels into dynamic park design.  Incorporated as a consistent component throughout the park, greenscreen® panels provide an iconic adaptability that can be used functionally in multiple locations.  Fence mounted, curvilinear panels successfully delineate the park space from the street and in combination with custom fabricated gates provide a secure space for the children’s playground area.  Vertical columns and wall mounted panels all add to the consistency of design while providing adaptability and variety.


Whether for site or structure, function or aesthetics, green facade walls provide a dynamic, adaptable element to large or small scale urban park design.  As the importance of urban parks increases due to the demands of greater urban densities, green facade walls will play an integral role in providing the inherent environmental services that urban parks have demonstrated for decades.  To those means, greenscreen® is an advocate for the incorporation of The Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™):  Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks (November 2009) as a vehicle for the promotion of sustainable landscape land development and management practices that can apply to sites with and without buildings.  For a copy of the peer reviewed credit contributions of green facade walls into SITES™, please download here.  To view additional examples of green facade wall integration in site and structure park design, please search the database available on our website. 

Image credits: greenscreen®

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