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Vertical Gardens

Updated: Jun 4

DATE: 2011- 2012

PARTNERS: & Jaaga.

COMMUNITY: Local farmers, art students and arts fraternity

Eve Sibley, Allison Kudla, and a team of environmentalists created the Green Wall and Rooftop Gardens for the Jaaga Living Building. They used hydroponics for plant growth, worm composting for soil health, and rainwater harvesting for irrigation.

Jaaga Rhenius Street demonstrated a lawn and a vegetable patch up on it’s roof. We had rotating vertical panels that form the 8 x 10 meter front facade of our building. On these panels local plants were grown in circulated water. The reverse side of the panels depicted birds converging to form Freddie Mercury’s face using found material and rust. This artwork was made by visiting artist Walker Babington.

Jaaga (meaning “space” in Kannada), based in Bangalore, India, seeks to nurture innovative endeavors by providing space, core infrastructure, and a diverse social environment. Born in August 2009 from a desire to bring the arts and technology communities closer together, Jaaga explores new ways of using pallet-rack shelving to create a modular and mobile community space in a dense urban landscape to foster innovation. The Living Building project seeks to extend the notion of the pallet-rack shelving as the skeleton of the living building by evolving the metaphor and design philosophy to include other organs such as tissue made of living vertical and rooftop gardens and a cascading aquaponic farm, a circulatory system complete with rainwater harvesting and hydroponic drip irrigation, a digestive system that houses worms which generate compost out of our organic waste, a metabolic system responsible for taking the energy harvested from our solar panels to light our space, connect us with wireless internet, and drive the pumps that circulate our harvested water. Eventually the Living Building will even develop a nervous system that senses and communicates. It is the intent that with each iteration of growth the building comes one step closer to reaching full consciousness.


Jaaga’s solar panels produce 1-kilowatt of power. This in conjunction to battery and a back-up on the grid electrical connection contributes to the power we use at Jaaga. Metabolic systems are responsible for managing energy and utilizing it within the body of the living system. Currently our metabolic system powers our lighting, wireless internet routing that is the inital stage of our nervous system, and finally charges the pumps that work to circulate our water.


The bones of Jaaga are steel shelving components known as pallet racks. Typically they are used in large warehouses enabling the storage of material up to the full height of the building. The components lock together to form the full skeletal structure of Jaaga without the need of additional bolts or connectors. There is no foundation so it can be disassembled and moved.


Jaaga’s roof will be lined on the front and right side with 16” deep raised-bed gardens. These gardens will primarily grow vegetables and also some hearty verticals for wind-blocking. They are watered by a drip irrigation system that uses harvested rainwater and a solar-powered pump. The structure was made from re-used materials. The seeds are indigenous varieties that were provided by The Green Foundation.


Jaaga’s front facade is lined with almost 70 square meters vertical gardens. The system for these gardens is hydroponic, meaning the plants are in a non-soil growing medium and are fed with nutrient rich water via drip irrigation. Our system uses two layers of coir mat backed by a moisture retention mat. Another unique aspect of our system is that many of the panels can swivel open and closed. Each panel is mounted on two ball bearings that allow the building to open, let light in and breathe. It also allows for easy access for maintenance, a unique sitting area and finally when the panels are completely reversed they show a custom-designed mural by Walker Babington. The inspiration for the design of the garden is that it be bold, unusual and dramatic. It is also influenced by abstract expressionist paintings. All of the plants used are ornamental.The vertical gardens add many benefits to Jaaga such as sound-damping and temperature cooling.


This is the process of gardening in a soilless substrate that is there to both hold the plants and be a breeding ground for nitrifying bacteria. Water from a fish tank is the source of nutrients whereby the fish excrete ammonia and the nitrifying bacteria break down the ammonia into nitrites and nitrates that the plants feed on. As the plants eat they are also cleaning the water that is then returned to the tank, Aquaponics uses about 5% the water of a regular garden, making it quite environmentally sound yet it does require energy to run the pump, in this case our nervous system of solar panels will provide this energy. This fish in our tank are tilapia because they work best in this climate and are a resilient fish that can deal well with slight fluctuations in water pH and temperature.


Jaaga’s stomach consists of a vermiculture worm bin that turns organic waste into compost. These worms, Eudrilus eugeniae variety, eat the organic waste, their manure becomes compost and finally as they multiply the are then fed to the fish in the aquaponic system. Worm bin made from a blue barrel that is also used for the aquaponics system.


The building collects rainwater from several points along the roof and channels them into one 1000 Liter tank. This tank sits above another tank that holds the water for the circulation of the hydroponic system. Periodically, harvested rainwater is transferred to the hydroponic tank and filled with fertilizers for the vertical gardens.


Each vertical garden panel contains a gutter and drip irrigation tubing. Water is collecting in the gutter and returned to the hydroponic water tank and then pumped back up throughout the vertical garden via drip irrigation tubing.


EVE SIBLEY Eve Sibley, our resident Garden Expert and Founder of World Food Garden, comes from an Arts, Astrology, and Activism background. Having spent her 20’s tending a small, back-stoop, container garden in NYC, Eve knew how simple and fulfilling growing some of one’s own food can be. At 30, she relocated down south to live off-grid and spend more time researching sustainable methods of food gardening. Upon realizing the potential positive environmental and social impact that could be achieved if more people grew a bit of their own food at home, Eve set out to create this site to help more people learn how. Click here to see an interview with Eve at the 2008 Slow Food Nation event in San Francisco.

ALLISON KUDLA Allison Kudla,, is an artist-in-residence and teacher at the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology. She is running project-based workshops at Jaaga and is responsible for bringing students from Srishti into the Living Building project to generate working groups that help to carry-out various facets of this project. She discussed her plans for the Living Building project in a paper and in a presentation given at MediaLab-Prado in June of 2010. That video and paper can be seen and downloaded here:

KANNAN MEHTA Kannan Mehta is a third year Srishti student in Visual Communications. She is delighted to be working on the Living Building project because she thinks the concept of having a living building in the middle of a congested urban landscape is just staggering.

NIKITA JAIN Nikita Jain is a fourth year Srishti student in the Sangama Lab (an interdisciplinary lab). She loves working with plants and finds the idea of having a living building super exciting!

BHARATH SANDUR Bharath Sandur is an expert in horticulture and a consultant on all things related to plants and their ecosystems.

FABIAN SIXTUS KOERNER Fabian Sixtus Körner visited Jaaga as a journeyman architect and designer and contributed a great deal of his architecture and aesthetic expertise to the Living Building project. More info on his work can be found here:

WALKER BABINGTON Walker Babington is designing and creating the mural which will exist on the reverse side of the front vertical garden. >> Special thanks to all the volunteers that volunteered time and labor to help Eve implement the vertical garden plan and especially to Will Bennet who volunteered countless hours to help Eve plant the garden *The above content is taken from

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