Poikilohydric Living Walls

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Poikilohydric Living Walls
Research and Commission
Marcos Cruz and Brenda Parker with Haddonstone
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Comission of 10 bioreceptive concrete panels for a house extension at Merchiston Park, Edinburgh Scotland

The project entails the installation of 10 bioreceptive concrete panels on a house extention in Edinburgh designed by Andy Shaw. It follows the resarch on Poikilohydric Living Walls that respond to the urgency of the climate crisis by exploring ways to increase vegetative growth on architecture and improve the environmental quality of cities.

Merchiston Park house extension by Andy Shaw with integrated bioreceptive panels - phases 1 and 2 (Renderings by Andy Shaw)

The walls promote the use of self-regulated biological systems on building façades and urban infrastructures by integrating poikilohydric species – algae, moss, lichen, etc. – that can switch their photosynthetic activity on and off without the need for additional irrigation and maintenance.

Biofilm formation with algae, moss and lichen growth in initial stages of bioreceptivity

A cementitious composite produced at Haddonstone in the UK as well as novel fabrication processes were used to allow for water absorption and retention in order to form in time bio-material substrata that feed this new type of living wall.

Dry mix of cementitious composite produced by Haddonstone

Poikilohydric plants – algae, mosses and lichens are able to deal with lengthy dry spells simply by “turning down their cellular metabolism – becoming dormant until newwater intake enables them to photosynthesis again”. But for these plants to bio-colonise the city, they need more diverse and suitable bioreceptive substrata – architectural ‘barks’ in the article Bioreceptive Design (Cruz, Beckett, ARQ 2013), to encourage their growth. 

Moss proliferation on porous cementitious composite after several years of exposure

The design of the panel's morphology was conceived through a set of intial patterns to create a surface depth and variability that can promote the natural occurance of cryptogramic growth.

First version of morphological patterns
Second version of morphological studies

Later, a previously tested design was implemented that had been used for the Poikilohydric Living Walls at the St Anne's Catholic Primary School in South London. This allows to carry out a long-term comparative study between panels installed in different sites.

Final version of panel design with subdivision in upper and lower parts
Technical Drawings with illustration of original panels with transplanted moss made at Pennine Stone for the Centre Pompidou exhibition (Drawing by Neil Greensfield)

The installation of 10 panels was the first of its kind where bioreceptive concrete panels were integrated in a building typology with its distinct architectural language.

View of house extension with integrated bioreceptive panels, Summer 2023


Cruz, M. 'Design for Ageing Buildings: An applied research of poikilohydric living walls’. In The Routledge Companion to Contemporary Architectural History (ed.Duanfang Lu), Routledge, 2022



Team: Marcos Cruz and Brenda Parker

Design of housing extension: Andy Shaw with Neil Greenshields

Manufacturing and material: Callum Jensen / Haddonstone Limited

Computation: Javier Ruiz and Nina Jotanović

Original concept: Marcos Cruz (PI) with Richard Beckett

Structural engineering: Neil Cameron

Clients: Dr TRD Shaw and Mrs MPL Shaw

Location: Merchiston Park, Edinburgh UK

Year: 2023