Florafelt: A Vision Of Living Buildings

by Chris Bribach, inventor of the Florafelt Living Wall System

We’re grateful to everyone who shares our mission to green the world. We’ve been deeply inspired by the way designers, landscapers, architects and builders use our systems to grow living walls lush with their unique artistry. We’ve worked to find solutions for bold ideas and gladly collaborate in challenging projects across the world. We’re proud to partner with visionaries who are transforming how we live with plants, with projects that thrill with their novelty but also evoke the deep comfort of familiarity found in our ancient memories. We look forward to working with anyone who feels inspired to grow a more beautiful world.

Chris Bribach at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers Florafelt Pocket Panels living wall donated by Plants On Walls in 2012.

Chris Bribach at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers Florafelt Pocket Panels living wall donated by Plants On Walls in 2012.

Architectural Beginnings

The story began with my love of architecture that resulted in the fortunate opportunity to attend and receive a 5 year bachelor’s degree from SCI-ARC in 1992. The school was located blocks from Frank Gehry’s office, where ideas for an organic future were just beginning to blossom.

Fig root structures at Harbin Hot Springs, California

Fig root structures at Harbin Hot Springs, California

Spontaneous Design

I was excited about organic ideas in architecture and created chaos sculptures made from many pieces of building elements connected in a free-form structure. I assembled the pieces in what seemed chaotic designs, but the goal was to create a redundantly efficient organic space frame. Similar to how a bird builds a nest, I wanted the assembly to become a process that organically helped create the scope and shape. On the human scale, I created what I called ‘performance architecture’ where the audience would create their own experience resulting in a structure.

Spontaneous retail buildout by Chris Bribach in Santa Monica, California, 1989.

Spontaneous retail buildout by Chris Bribach in Santa Monica, California, 1989.

Ancient Origins

The act of creating space with the materials at hand, quickly and efficiently, is how ancient people built dwellings. Nomadic communities living in harmony with their environment for thousands of years used very little to build comfortable homes. By passing down this knowledge, a rich architecture evolved that was sensitive to the environment and make efficient use of local materials.

Berber Dwelling. Photo: ricklireisen.ch

Berber Dwelling. Photo: ricklireisen.ch

The Solution

The massive industrial urban centers of today are plagued with paved and roofed surfaces that require enormous amounts of energy to create and maintain. I wondered why buildings can’t be covered with living foliage to cool interiors, prevent decay and even grow food.

Florafelt Pro System living wall vertical farm at Makers Faire 2015.

Florafelt Pro System living wall vertical farm at Makers Faire 2015.

Inspiration

Florafelt Vertical Garden Panel US Patent 8141294

Florafelt Vertical Garden Panel US Patent 8141294

In 2008, I turned to the work of the visionary artist Patric Blanc who began growing vertically in the 1970s using his home fish aquarium. Replicating the natural growth along cliffs and sloping surfaces, he created beautiful vertical gardens using nutrient water that flows over synthetic felt. Excited by the potential, I explored the slit-and-staple method Patric offered in his book, The Vertical Garden, where he removes almost all the soil when planting. It quickly became clear that a mastery of botany would be required to provide proper water and nutrients hydroponically. I simplified the concept by pleating the felt and attaching it to a lightweight non-toxic plastic board to create easily plantable pockets. This concept of pleating felt as a vertical growing method was completely unique and can be implemented in many ways so wrote and was granted a patent for the ‘Vertical Garden Panel’ filed Sep. 2, 2010.

Sustainable Ecology

I am committed to the use of sustainable manufacturing methods that I learned from William McDonough’s book, Cradle To Cradle, so I worked with manufacturers to develop a synthetic growing medium I called Florafelt. Made from recycled plastic water bottles, it is food-safe and will not only last indefinitely but could be re-melted to create other products.

Florafelt 12-Pocket Panel Living Wall System.

Florafelt 12-Pocket Panel Living Wall System.

Into Reality

Florafelt Vertical Planters are proudly made in the USA from materials also made in the USA. Our team assembles planters and systems for customers throughout the world. There’s nothing like the joy you feel when you fill a wall with plants.

Sincerely,

Chris Bribach, CEO

Plants On Walls / Florafelt Living Wall Systems