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Breathe” was Dave MacKenzie’s second ArtPrize entry, and in 2014, the vertical garden was a Top 5 Finalist in the Installation Category of the World’s Largest Art Competition.  In 2013, Dave entered Back to Eden, an abstract design using 70 plant species as the paint.  It too, was at the B.O.B., and used the LiveWall system as the canvas.

This time Dave went bigger, nearly 1,500 square feet, and he has moved from abstract to impressionism, and interactive with various photo stations, hoping to better convey the message that plants give us more than beauty; they give us the very oxygen we breathe.  And, in an urban setting like this, green wall plants help restore the natural beauty and greenery that was lost to steel and concrete.  Dave developed Breathe to challenge and inspire each viewer to think differently about the constructed world; and about how that world might look and feel if integrated with nature. The largest graphic in Breathe faces east and includes a windblown pattern in which the white flowers spell Breathe O2 (oxygen), and symbolize air. The green patterns, above and below, represent fields and forests. And, the yellow in the upper right hand corner symbolizes the sun, which fuels photosynthesis, which yields O2 (oxygen). This vital process, photosynthesis, occurs within leaves, and for this reason Dave included leaf shaped graphics of Michigan native trees (oak, beech, maple, catalpa), on the north and west facing surfaces.

This living wall project had many challenges; the canvas is very large, and engineering and building it was a significant undertaking.  Dave’s colleague Tom Arndst is to thank for that.

The green wall measures about 22 feet tall, at its peak. The east facing surface receives sun from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM, the two north facing surfaces are in shade all day, and the west facing surface that receives sun from 4 PM until 7 PM. Each requires different plant selections, as each plant has its own preference for light and shade.  Choosing and pairing the plants was a challenge, but also a big part of the fun.

Some facts and figures are as follows:

  • Breathe contains approximately 3,500 plants, which were grown in Spring Lake, Michigan, at Dave’s nursery, Hortech, Inc.
  • Most were planted in May or June, and consist of annuals, herbs, perennials and tropical plants.
  • Watering is controlled by a timer and watering occurs each morning for 1 or 2 minutes per watering zone.
  • There are 33 zones and the water runs through the aluminum mounting rails to the mist nozzles that spray on the soil behind the plants.
  • The entire vertical garden is supplied with a single garden hose!

Dave hopes that you enjoy this work, and that it inspires you to plant something, anything, anywhere.

Breathe Living Wall Art – Artist Statement

Breathe was on display during ArtPrize 2014 at  the B.O.B.  (Big Old Building).  ArtPrize, the world’s largest art competition, ran from September 24 to October 12.

Reactions to ‘Breathe’ Vertical Garden:

LiveWall / Breathe / Dave MacKenzie in the News – ArtPrize 2014: Meet Final 20 artist Dave MacKenzie, ‘Breathe’
Grand Haven Tribune – SL man’s work makes it into ArtPrize Top 20