09/24/2012 11:49 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Skyfarming Prototype? 8-Story, Climbable Vertical Garden in Barcelona (VIDEO)


Architect Juli Capella was tasked by the city of Barcelona to design a vertical garden to cover a nearly 70-foot-high windowless wall (left over after an adjacent building was demolished).

Instead of creating a typical living wall that simply covered the existing surface with plants, he constructed a piece of architecture (or "vegitecture") that acts like any conventional building, with a door, stairs and floors. But unlike any other building, it has plants for walls.

Unlike other vertical gardens that require a crane to fertilize or replace plants, gardeners simply climb the stairs and, aided by a pulley-system and swappable planter boxes, can keep the vertical garden in an ever-green state. A drip irrigation system keeps water use low and upkeep at a minimum.

It acts as a huge steel tree: it provides oxygen, filters the air, shades the neighboring building and provide a home for nearly a dozen bird species (complete with nesting boxes), as well as for geckos and bats.

This type of vegitecture, like any other living wall, is expensive to build, explains Montserrat Prado Barrabés, an architect with Institut del Paisatge Urbà (the city group that commissioned the project), but she assures it is cheap when it comes to maintenance.

Given my experience climbing the 8 floors with a bulky camera bag, I don't doubt that it doesn't take much more to upkeep than any other urban garden. Now just add some vegetables and it might start to resemble a prototype for skyscraper farming.

Watch Kirsten's feature-length documentary on tiny homes: "We the Tiny House People: Small Homes, Tiny Flats & Wee Shelters in the Old and New World."