Gutman Library renovation includes green ‘living walls’

2 min read

Indoor gardens have been shown to improve air quality, increase productivity and reduce stress and noise—so where better to install them than in a library?

The Harvard Graduate School of Education’s (HGSE) Gutman Library recently underwent a first-floor renovation that included the installation of four “living walls”—or ceiling-to-floor panels covered entirely with foliage. The idea was to integrate sustainability with interior design—making the room brighter and more aesthetic, while simultaneously promoting a cleaner environment for students and faculty.

The living walls in the Gutman Library were created by Cityscapes, an interior landscaping company. “This project was our first in a library,” said Amy Walker, senior designer/account manager for Cityscapes. Walker said living walls can also reduce carbon dioxide in the air and inspire creativity.

“The renovation began last fall and was completed in the spring,” said Jason Carlson, director of operations for the HGSE. “It hadn’t been renovated since 1970, when the building was first constructed; the look and feel of the library has completely changed. The living walls were the finishing touch.” The Gutman Library’s living walls are composed of Philodendron cordatum, Pink aglaonema, Neon pothos and Syngonium.

“The walls have attracted a great deal of attention. People touch them to confirm that they are real, living plants,” said John W. Collins, librarian of the Graduate School of Education. “They add an air of freshness, a sense of warmth and coziness, and, despite their location in busy area of the Library, they exude tranquility and seem to lower stress levels.”