February 13, 2020
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Under the direction of lead designer Nathan Beckner, Sagegreenlife takes living walls to the next level.
A common area in the South Loop’s Eleven40 residential building features a living wall by Sagegreenlife. (Photo courtesy of Sagegreenlife)
Living plant walls are nothing new, but thanks to Nathan Beckner, West Loop-based firm Sagegreenlife has grown into one of the city’s standout sources for the trend, having recently evolved from a manufacturer to a full-service design firm. In the process, it has attracted the attention of prominent architectural firms like Gensler and Perkins + Will.
“Living walls have become a key design consideration as opposed to an afterthought, and they’re being specified into designs from the very beginning,” Beckner explains. “People are truly embracing the movement and supporting the power of biophilic design.”
As the company has grown, so have its projects—like the 18-by- 42-foot installation at the airy 44th-floor Sky Lobby at the Franklin Center on West Monroe. Inspired by tartan, it features a textural mix of more than 5,000 plants, many with pink, purple and chartreuse leaves. “Everybody expects [these pieces] to be green, but they don’t have to be,” Beckner says.
Although large-scale works have an undeniable wow factor, the company offers smaller-scale products as well, including a self-watering, two-sided divider designed to replace the standard cubicle wall.
Unlike some competing systems, Sagegreenlife’s walls will last for years without being replaced, becoming more sculptural over time. In an older wall installation at the company’s headquarters, for example, one of the plants has grown thick aerial roots. In another, an orchid with beautiful iridescent foliage produces stunning white and yellow flowers every January.
And it’s not just about the look: Beckner also selects for durability, sound abatement, air filtration and scent, often incorporating fragrant specimens such as rosemary and French lavender. “Early on, projects were usually smaller in scale and more often local Chicago installations. Now we have monumental living walls across the country, both interior and exterior— and there are many more of them.” 730 W. Randolph St., 312.234.9655