Calming Living Walls

living wall

Airports are not the most relaxing of places. People may experience the stress of cancellations, delays, missed connections and lost baggage. To this, add the complexities of a pandemic.

Though I normally consider myself to be a low-risk traveler, my daughter’s wedding in the US was coming up and I was the only family member able to accompany her. When direct Canadian flights were suddenly cancelled, the only remaining option was to fly via a US carrier. My daughter was anxious to reunite with a partner who could not enter Canada without a marriage certificate and trips in April and June had previously been cancelled.

When our return Delta flight from Orlando to Detroit was delayed three times and finally left five and a half hours late, we knew we would miss our connecting flight. A Customer Commitment outlines help with various issues such as rescheduling and hotel and meal vouchers. We were pointed to a phone on a wall to find a new connecting flight for the following day and despite asking, no provisions were made for overnight accommodation or food. After a series of digital and phone communications and a 16 hour delay in getting home, we are to receive some compensation. This does little to ease the trauma of being abandoned overnight in a big US city during a pandemic.

What did help was unexpected. After my husband stepped in to book a last-minute stay for us at The Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport, I was amazed by the beauty of the vertical walls in the hotel lobby. As a gardener and plant lover, I could feel some of my anxiety dissipating as I experienced the stunning living displays.

Designers and planners understand the benefits of vertical gardens. Ansglobal points to many international examples of living wall installations including many in hotels and airports. Appleton International Airport in the US cites the calming effects of its living wall which was installed in 2018.

Examples of airport living walls in Canada include Edmonton, Montreal and Vancouver. Benefits from indoor walls include moisture, air filtration, oxygen production and energy savings thanks to a reduced reliance on mechanical systems. Vancouver’s outdoor wall features native plants and gives travelers a visual introduction to local colour. In 2016, public consultations for the future of the Vancouver airport contemplated the possibility of additional indoor living walls. The walls are also beautiful examples of gardens as living art.

When I reflect on our recent experiences, I will focus on the happy wedding, a small miracle that happened despite many challenges. I will also recall the beauty of the hotel vertical gardens, an oasis of calm and reassurance. I hope more airports and hotels will install vertical gardens. Plants can provide well-needed comfort when all else fails.

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