San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Design David Brenner
Installation Habitat Horticulture
Architect Snøhetta & EHDD (Architect of Record)
Irrigation Design Hyphae Design Lab
General Contractor Webcor Builders
Dimensions 150' wide x 29'- 4" high
Completion Date March 2016
Location San Francisco, CA
Photography Garry Belinsky
Video interview with designer, David Brenner, on the inspiration behind the wall.
San Francisco Magazine
“Amidst the surrounding cityscape, and as a natural counterpoint and complement to the stimulating experience of the art-filled museum, the SFMOMA Living Wall is an inviting and recharging feature. In conceiving the wall, it was important for it to be perceived as an extension of the natural world, to not be overly designed. The wall needed to be rooted somehow in the California landscape, its wider home. Drawing practical inspiration from the fairly shaded exposure of the site, I worked to capture the essence of an understory plant community in a California woodland, so amorphous planting swathes reflect the composition of a regional forest floor. Filled with many different textures, it is lush, diverse and monochromatic.
The Living Wall at SFMOMA is a multi-sensory experience that envelopes the viewer. The wall is vast, unable to be seen in its entirety from any single vantage point. An evolving ecosystem, birds, bees, butterflies and other insects are drawn to inhabit and pollinate the wall. As the wind passes through the leaves of multiple fern varieties, there is a perception of movement and softness. The seasons are reflected in the wall with an ever-changing play of textures and shades of green and other hues. It’s exciting to witness the wall's dynamic light-dark interplay change over time — for example, when the orange-tinged tips of the huckleberry emerge and take their glowing turn in the spotlight, or when the Pink Flowering Currant and the Campanula deliver their seasonal surprises of flower color. This dynamism is a feature of the site’s biophilic design, aimed at awakening and reinforcing the human urge to reconnect with nature, creating an experiential bond between the viewer and the living wall.
To fully experience the wall, walk the length of the terrace as if it were a trail within a forest. The path offers the viewer a multitude of intimate discoveries of fragrance, color, and texture in the foliage. Next, view the wall in profile, where the various dimensions of plant forms are showcased and where the undulating white facade of the building is embraced by the soft textures and lushness of the plants. It is where nature and architecture meet and become one.”
• Engineered by Hyphae Design Lab, the wall is irrigated mostly by stormwater and condensate water (excess water from the building's HVAC system)
• Runoff water is captured and recirculated back into the system