Living Wall at American Steel Studios

Living Wall at American Steel Studios

Great things are happening in Oakland. American Steel Studios, a warehouse converted into studios for industrious artists, has adopted the ‘Groundation Foundation‘, and together, they are building a living wall for the side of the warehouse facing Mandella Parkway near 20th Street. The team that’s assembled includes ambassadors, artists, gardeners, and water engineers – activists dedicated to the project. They are design/building a steel-based foundation to hold thousands of refuse yoghurt containers filled with no fuss plants that require little water. The group is acting big. Already they have built a planter box, all along the warehouse’s east side, filled with vines to support birds and perennial wildflowers for bees and buterflies. The team also has plans to remove concrete below the new living wall – see photo above!


American Steel Studios is a complete metalworker haven, and sparks fly as Nick Gardner welds the first 10 x 8 foot frame with a grid offset to hold the planted yoghurt containers at a slight outward and skyward angle. Light streaming into the warehouse gives objects the sharp glisten of possibility.


The ‘Groundation Foundation’ and American Steel Studios are good neighbors. They want to connect the outdoors to what’s going on inside with this living wall. The City of Oakland has also taken an interest in the project and has donated two 2,825-gallon rain catchment cisterns and is considering living walls in general, a way to discourage graffiti. Sweet to imagine the City of Oakland’s walls covered with vines and plants. In my utopia, these will support bird species, pollinators, and butterflies while also adding beauty, water transpiration and a living canvas for garden artists.

The warehouse roof sheds just under 6-million gallons of rain, which now flows over impenatrable streets, into the sewage system, and eventually to San Francisco Bay. Though a mere drop in the bucket, the project will collect 5,650 gallons of water that will water the living wall via a solar-powered pump.

Again in my utopia, I imagine harnessing this community’s fortitude, amply funding their efforts, and infusing their brains with the best engineering and technological resources we have available. I am sure they’ll be working toward their vision, and I can’t wait to see the wall installed.

How to contribute? Bring your yoghurt and similarly-sized, take-out containers and plant clippings to 1960 Mandela Parkway, West Oakland (enter on 20th Street, look for the Nursery). And keep your eyes peeled next time you’re cruising along Mandella Parkway, and check to see if the new living wall is in place!