When nature meets design, living architecture happens. There is an emerging trend in the architectural industry to create buildings that integrate nature into the design, producing a living, thriving masterpiece. 

Atlassian’s new global headquarters, coming soon to Central station with gardens that blur the separation between indoor and outdoor spaces or the Southbank by Beulah in Melbourne, featuring a green spine twisting up the tower fa├žades are just some of the projects where the concepts of living architecture are being put to good use.

While architects have been introducing foliage and vegetation into buildings through green walls, green roofs and green facades over the past few years, what was once a niche element in building design, has now gone mainstream. Integrating nature into the fabric of buildings is the future of our cities because we recognise we need nature to be part of our daily lives.

However, bringing these designs to life requires thoughtful planning and consideration. Leading living infrastructure expert and founder of Junglefy, Jock Gammon says executing living design is “like the strokes on a fine oil painting; the artistry lies in the sum of the skills, not one without the presence of the other”.

Junglefy has delivered some of the most innovative living infrastructure projects in Australia. 

One Central Park in Sydney, for instance, is renowned for its plant covered exterior, which still appears as verdant seven years after completion. This seemingly impossible project was achieved thanks to the collaboration between Junglefy, Aspect and Oculus, Turf Design Studio, Ateliers-Jean Nouvel, PTW Architects, Patrick Blanc, Frasers Property, Sekisui House, WATPAC, ARUP, WSP Lincolne Scott and others. One of the earliest examples of living infrastructure, One Central Park paved the way for the living building designs that followed. 

For the Barangaroo project in Sydney, Junglefy worked with architectural practices including Hassell, Collins and Turner, FJMT, Rogers Stirk Harbour, Tzannes & Associates and PTW, along with landscape architects from Aspect Studio and Oculus. Barangaroo House by Collins and Turner extends over three levels, with the restaurants and bar taking the form of stacked timber bowls, complete with hanging gardens of natives and edible plants spilling over the edges.

This award-winning design called for bespoke solutions. The charred timber cladding, wrapping the outside of the ‘bowls’ uses a Japanese technique, Shou Sugi Ban, to create the soft smoky look. The planter boxes with cascading plants were numbered by Junglefy to ensure the installation followed the precise order to preserve the gentle arc shape.

The plant selection was based on the species’ resilience to wind and salt, given the building’s foreshore location.

“Junglefy know what plants will perform. If plants don’t perform, the concept is eroded,” says landscape architect Sasha Coles, director of Aspect Studio, who worked closely with Oculus and Junglefy. “Junglefy also understand the importance of getting the soil right, as well as the infrastructure to support this in the long term,” says Coles.

Landscape architect Roger Jasprizza, associate director of Oculus worked alongside Aspect Studio and Junglefy at both Barangaroo and One Central Park. “Everything starts with the site and its unique qualities such as solar access and wind, as much as the finer grain of the site,” says Jasprizza, who included a mixture of exotic and native plants at Barangaroo House.

“Junglefy has the experience and innate knowledge of what plants will work and in what conditions. And if anything needs to be tested in advance of planting, it is. That experience feeds into our design, as well as the long-term maintenance which is a key consideration.”

To ensure the success of a living architecture project, collaboration of expertise across fields is vital. The renovation of the University of Melbourne’s School for Ecosystems and Forest Sciences in Burnley by Hassell included three green roof spaces – one for demonstrating plant species, another dedicated to research, testing water runoff and temperature monitoring, and a third that focuses on biodiversity. Each green roof had its own purpose and conditions, requiring the appropriate skill sets.

“The idea was to put this school on the map, both locally, and internationally,” says landscape architect Stephen Tan, senior associate with Hassell in Melbourne.

“Junglefy is ambitious in the way it operates, pushing boundaries with research and development,” says Tan.

“It (Junglefy) has the ability to solve problems, given it comes from a strong horticultural base,” he adds.

To tackle the inclement weather during construction, Junglefy manufactured many of the components for the rooftop gardens, such as the steel frames and grating, offsite. The collaboration between Hassell, the university and Junglefy enabled them to quickly adapt to project constraints resulting in a functional, beautiful space and a legacy for learning.

“Collaborating throughout the lifecycle is so important – each team has its own unique skillset and we understand how to bring these skills together to deliver the best result,” says Gammon.

“We have learned so much when it comes to the successful execution of living infrastructure design. The careful selection of plants, the right installation methodologies and product choice, combined with well executed maintenance systems that allow for safe, easy access must all be considered during the design phase. Not understanding these elements can be impossible to resolve post completion and the client may end up with a costly maintenance bill and plants that won’t survive,” he said.

More than a decade on, Junglefy has been successful in taking the concept of living infrastructure mainstream. The company continues to innovate and introduce better ways to integrate plants into the design and construction of our cities in the hope that in another ten years, our cities will indeed be living within nature.