London Loves Lawn

National Theatre grass Flytower

National Theatre grass Flytower
(image from Flickr user Jonny2005)

FlyTower, by Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey is an art project to grow grass on two faces of the Flytower of the Lyttelton Theatre at the National Theatre on London's South Bank.

Intended to last up to 10 weeks, the artists expect the grass to turn yellow and die, a poetic reminder of global warming.

Turf puns are essential, it would seem. "When the going gets turf .." chirps the Times, while "It's turf at the top" chimes the Telegraph:

"The couple have dreamt of "growing" the theatre for years. "We used to get the 59 bus across Waterloo Bridge to Brixton, which is where we were living," says Ackroyd. Then Harvey chips in: "We joked about growing the whole building."

But I think this is less about greening the grey brutalism of the South Bank and more about tapping a national obsession of the English with their lawns. We have a fundamental basic desire to each own a patch of grass (which partially explains why we've never taken to apartment living).

It's no surprise that Wimbledon is the only world class tennis tournament to be played on grass, or that the turf at Wembley or the pitch at Lords are hallowed, sacred terrains. (Indeed, in the 1970's, Scottish football hooligans delighted in digging up the Wembley turf as an act of desecration, much celebrated by PM in waiting, Gordon Brown, who proudly proclaims: "There's a pub in central Scotland that displays a lump of Wembley turf to commemorate the victory").

Vertical Garden

Elsewhere, Pingmag features the work of Patrick Blanc, who has been growing Vertical Gardens, or mur vegetal, for many years:

"It has been proved that the Vertical Garden enhances atmospheric humidity in its vicinity, thus enabling small ferns and mosses to appear and seeds to germinate. Shops and museums turn out to be very suitable places for this kind of implementation indeed. And even though a car park is supplemented with specific artificial light… tropical plants that survive by growing in the shades are perfectly suitable for sunless locations."

My own patch of lawn is a failure. The grass is lumpy, mossy, has bald areas. In the summer the ground cracks, and the grass yellows. Not for me a verdant green carpet. I detest mowing. My secret plan is to install Astroturf, but I can't help but feel I'd be betraying my Englishness.