Getting vertical with the Bay Area expert on green “living walls”

The "living wall", a plant installation on the third-floor terrace at SFMOMA in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, April 27, 2017. (Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group)

David Brenner has a different perspective on gardens.

“If you look at something green and growing, it does something to you, physiologically — restores your mind, lowers blood pressure,” he says, gazing up – yes, up – at the massive “living wall” he designed for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the largest vertical garden in the country.

“Just take a deep breath,” he says, and does. “The colors, the shades of green, the movement of the ferns. We keep building big concrete buildings in urban areas, but we realize we need actual vegetation. Not only for the sake of the environment, but for reconnecting with nature, for our mental well-being.”

With a striking combo of horticulture and psychology in his background, San Jose native Brenner, 32, is a master of vertical vegetation. He turns the concept of gardens on end, not only with his artful plant designs and innovative watering systems, but with the idea of nourishing us urban-jungle workers with a breath of fresh nature.

And because of this specialized skill, he and his firm – San Francisco-based Habitat Horticulture — have become the go-to for the recent living wall trend in the Bay Area. His designs are in and/or on buildings at Tesla, Ideo, the California Academy of Sciences, Autodesk, Bay Meadows, Trulia. At Salesforce, Brenner created living partitions to break up an interior space. In the café on the Facebook campus, the word HARVEST is spelled out in greenery. His work is also found in private homes – a wall of living art behind a sofa, or even “gardens” on pieces of furniture.

Greening up the grind

While you’ll see the occasional houseplant on a worker’s desk, the concept of greening up entire sections of structures has only caught on in the last few years in the U.S., following Europe’s lead, Brenner says.

The “living wall”, a plant installation on the third-floor terrace at SFMOMA in San Francisco. (Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group)

“If you look at the rest of the world, we’ve kind of been behind here in terms of what we’re building and how we’re reconnecting with nature,” he says. “Now, big companies like Google are really focusing on improving the workplace environment through air quality and visual elements. With plants, there’s a restorative effect on productivity. You can take a step away into nature for a moment, then go back to doing your work with a fresh start.”

Strong roots

Brenner, who grew up in Willow Glen, says his love of horticulture sprouted early — he’d care for his grandparents’ plants when they traveled to Italy each year. Later at Cal Poly, he studied horticulture and environmental psychology, and apprenticed at Kew Gardens in London, where he became fascinated by the concept of vertical gardens, using plants that could grow on rock faces and other hard surfaces. He realized there was a niche for that back home.

So when he returned to his studies at Cal Poly, a botany professor gave him access to a greenhouse in the middle of campus. “I

Source:: East Bay – Lifestyle

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