Imagine an urbanscape infused with lichen. An artist in NYC is doing just this. She’s taking environmentally-conscious urban gardening, usually reserved for rooftops, and applying it vertically. Creative examples of biomimicry are all over the fields of architecture and design. Vertical gardens are also well-established. Of course it used to be the case that vines and leaves and what not growing all over building facades meant that no one was taking proper care of the buildings. But humans progress, or at least some of our stupider preconceptions evaporate over time.
The idea to use lichens comes from Rutgers Fine-Arts professor Elizabeth Demaray. She figured out a way to convert the naturally growing mossy substance into a paste that can then be painted onto the sides of buildings.* Because lichen grows vertically on porous surfaces and propagates easily, lichen walls on skyscrapers would in theory be really easy to initiate – all you would need to do is open a window and paint some lichen onto the wall. And not only does it look really cool, because it tends to make otherwise drab surfaces shine in all sorts of awesome ways, but it also has some serious functional and environmental properties. Lichen works by photosynthesis, it absorbs sunlight and carbon dioxide and respires oxygen. By reflecting heat, lichen would help keep buildings (and cities) cooler. And the vertical garden makeover it would give to urban areas would make cities literally greener and more inviting. It only remains to find the most urban-friendly form of the fungi-algae.
* Demaray is currently exhibiting her idea as an outdoor instillation art show on lower Manhattan.