First living wall on campus completed

Brianna Stone

After five years of planning and research, UT’s first living wall, a 10-by-25 foot honeycomb structure with carefully selected native plants, is complete.

The project, shepherded by former School of Architecture Dean Frederick Steiner and Assistant Professor Danelle Briscoe, was completed by students and volunteers from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The living wall is at the Northwest corner of Goldsmith Hall facing Guadalupe Street and was funded by Dr. Patricia Clubb, vice president for University Operations office and UT’s Green Fee Award, a $5 fee billed to all tuition-paying students.

“I love this project,” Steiner said. “It has the ability to make the ugly more attractive and has ecological climate mitigation potential.”

Other than the wall’s aesthetic and sociological benefits, it will provide building cooling, city cooling, storm-water mitigating, noise buffering and serve as a natural air filter.

Steiner collaborated with Briscoe, Clubb and Mark Simmons, who was director of research and consulting for the Ecosystem Design Group at Wildflower Center. Briscoe led the project while Simmons provided ecological knowledge.

During the project, Mark Simmons died from leukemia and Michelle Bright, an environmental designer at Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center and UT alumna, took over his duties.

“The living wall was a pilot project for the Guadalupe Parking Garage and was my last major project as the dean,” Steiner said. He resigned from his position because of the new campus carry law and took over as dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Design.

“I remain a big supporter of the project. I’m really happy we finished during my last month [at UT],” Steiner said.

Briscoe said she hopes the wall will make students think alternatively about ways to take care of the planet.

“For the most part, you’re going to be seeing something like a honeycomb wall that happens to have a plant system to it,” Briscoe said. “Hopefully, it will let people see that when you talk about architecture, it doesn’t have to mean concrete.”

Data from the wall will be gathered and analyzed to determine whether other walls can be implemented on campus or throughout Austin.