Inspiration from Iceland: Moss Living Walls

You never know where you’ll find garden inspiration – perhaps on holiday in Reykjavik, Iceland.

After a day of seeking out and being rather disappointed by the Reykjavik Botanical Garden, we headed to Reykjavik City Hall to look at the 3D map of Iceland.

Almost by accident, we exited via the not-so-obvious front door, and were astounded by what we found: A water-fed wall of moss stretching from one extreme of the site to the other; a rich tapestry of greens.

The wall itself is constructed of porous volcanic rock. That makes sense for Iceland, but isn’t something most of us can whip up on a whim. The rectangular wall is broken by a fissure in the long two-thirds, and punctuated by porthole windows (doubtless, reflecting Iceland’s maritime heritage).

It all reflects in a large pond, where ducklings dropped by to visit while we were there. The green wall softens City Hall’s a modern structure of glass and concrete. Pillars on the other side of the building dip their feet into Lake Tjörnin, Icelandic for “the pond.”

Mosses are the mainstay of this living wall. Amongst them, grasses and other greenery are finding footholds.

Strangely, I can’t find much background (in English, anyway) on this wall. It’s as if it’s taken for granted. I’ll do some more research when I return to Toronto – and internet is more reliable. Till then, enjoy this product of visionary civic minds. I did.

This post might qualify for Veg Plotting’s Out on the Streets meme, which asks us to find garden inspiration in public spaces. Head over there to see what’s inspiring people this August 2010.


  1. Looks fascinating – I love it.

    I was in Iceland 40 years ago: needless to say there was nothing like that there then but I found the turf roofs intriguing. Now living roofs are fashionable so perhaps moss walls will become so too in time.

    I was also amazed by the tiny alpines flowering in the black volcanish 'desert' in the interior. It's amazing how and where plants colonise such places.


  2. This looks fantastic and I particularly love how it combines with the large ornamental pool. Presumably though even surrounding it with water would not be enough to get a wall like that through our dry Midwestern summers…

  3. The architects of your moss wall are Iceland's Studio Granda. But even with Internet access doesn't seem to be a lot of info out there. You have the best pictures ;>)

  4. I'm in love! Despite the inanimate nature of a wall!!

    But then, it is a living, breathing entity, so 'love' it is.

    Great post.
    (and I do wish to travel there… buzzzzzz)

  5. This is magnificent! I LOVE moss. It is so serene. Have seen more and more about "living walls." Might just entice me to visit a city. I just recently came across an article on "moss graffiti" and it was neat to see a name grown out of moss. A whole wall is even better.

  6. What an interesting and dramatic looking building. Love the mosses, and the reflection in the water reminds me of castles in Wales.

    1. Yep, continuously dripping, as you can probably see at the bottom of the third picture. At least, continuously dripping during the non-freezing months. The porous volcanic stone probably assisted, too.

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