The Vertical Gardens Making Mexico City’s Motorways Greener – Literally and Figuratively

High-tech vertical gardens could soon be helping Mexico City reduce the pollution and noise from its recently expanded motorway system.

Autor*in Mark Newton, 04.25.18

High-tech vertical gardens could soon be helping Mexico City reduce the pollution and noise from its recently expanded motorway system.

As well as being one of the most densely populated capitals in the world, Mexico City is also one of the most congested, with a daily car commuter expecting to spend up to 230 hours a year sitting in the city’s many traffic jams. Luckily, a vertical gardens project is under development that wants to make that time-consuming commute at least a little bit more enjoyable – and healthy.

Via Verde is a Mexican-based project which aims to turn the grey concrete pillars of Mexico’s double decker highway system into a verdant and vibrant tunnel of vegetation. The brainchild of architect Fernand Ortiz Monasterio and his vertical garden specialist firm Verde Vertical, the Via Verde project has started to cover over one thousand motorway columns with sixty thousand square metres of vertical gardens and plantlife.

Between 2006 and 2009, Mexico City’s iconic Anillo Periférico orbital motorway was greatly expanded with the Viaducto Elevado Bicentenario – a second storey of motorway that covered large sections of the original route. As well as increasing the capacity of the motorway in a densely populated city, the construction also resulted in a concrete jungle of rows upon rows of bland pillars.

This development irked Mexican drivers enough that 80,000 of them signed a petition, initiated by Via Verde, to help the project gain local government approval. Following the petition’s success, Via Verde has now set about creating the vertical gardens, which involves installing a trellis, as well as sensor and irrigation systems.

Creating A Real Urban Jungle

The project claims a long list of benefits can be obtained from their vertical gardens, ranging from the environmental to the psychological. In particular, Via Verde claim their vertical gardens on the Anillo Periférico will filter 27,000 tons of toxic exhaust fumes, reduce thermic and urban heating and provide cleaner oxygen for 25,000 people. Additionally, the vertical gardens will help to reduce noise pollution and stress as well as creating local jobs in production and maintenance.

Mexico City is not the only city to see the use in lush, vertical green spaces. Other densely populated cities around the world have also been exploring the concept, with vertical gardens now firmly rooted in the emerging concept of the ‘smart city’. Cities as diverse as London, São Paulo and Beirut are installing vertical gardens, while an entire ‘forest city’ is under planning in China. 

However, despite the apparent positives and global popularity, Via Verde isn’t without its critics in Mexico City. Following its announcement in 2016, the project engendered a degree of debate, especially regarding its value for money. Despite the capital being privately generated, critics suggested 300 trees could be planted at the cost of one vertical garden and argued people needed real public green spaces. Additionally, they suggested Via Verde did nothing to reduce car use, perhaps the most important factor in limiting pollution, congestion and related health issues.

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