Tel Aviv’s ‘Houses From Within’ exhibit includes home with unique homes where residents are trying to implement urban agriculture techniques that protect the environment in the city.
By Zafrir Rinat | May.15, 2012

All the plants in Yael Stav’s garden grow out of walls and fences. Stav, a product designer, transformed the family garden into a lab for vertical gardening. This method uses walls and other vertical structures, fences for example, to grow greenery and herbs.

Her garden in Tel Aviv’s Hadar Yosef neighborhood will be part of the “Houses From Within” (“Batim Mibifnim” ) exhibition in Tel Aviv this weekend. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the public can visit private homes and interesting sites in different parts of the city. The event, sponsored by the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality, will feature an ecological program and offer visits to projects and homes where residents are trying to implement urban agriculture techniques that protect the environment in the city.

The organizers of Houses from Within, Aviva Levinson and her husband, architect Alon Bin Nun, called Stav’s garden the “garden of surprises.” Stav is now completing her doctoral thesis on the environmental benefits of vertical greenery. Her mentor is a researcher from the University of Queensland, Australia.

One fence in the Hadar Yosef garden has hanging plants and a variety of holders. Stav designed some of them with recycled materials such as sheets used for billboards. The holders have a bed of earth and other materials where plants grow.

“The vertical greenery can enable the whole family in the city to grow a variety of plants, including assorted vegetables and herbs,” she says, pointing to tomatoes curling down from one of the holders hanging from the fence. “You can do this in any building and use a variety of materials.”

Among the environmental benefits of vertical gardening, Stav cites efficient temperature regulation in buildings, which saves energy; better climate; and a reduction of noise and air pollution.

Stav’s research shows that a garden on the roof and walls can save 20 percent or more on the energy used to cool the building. Garden walls and roofs can also be a source for growing food. “I think there is also an important psychological benefit for a person having such a garden in his home,” she says.

In addition to the hanging plants, the garden has a wooden deck for gathering fruits and it too has hanging plants. One wall was used to create a vertical composter. The organic waste from the house is placed into the composter and transformed into fertilizers for the garden’s plants. A unique innovation is the cut plastic container placed on the ground, where plants are grown on a bed of eco-friendly diapers used by Stav’s children. “These diapers have a gel that absorbs water efficiently,” she says.

Stav is helping set up an educational garden for youths in a municipality building in the Lev Ha’ir section. “This would be a place to teach as many people as possible about urban agriculture, including vertical gardening,” she says.

Stav also helps run a small community garden in the city’s Yemenite Quarter, which is also participating in Houses From Within. All passers-by can go into the community garden and taste the fruits. The Houses From Within organizers refer to it as “delightful chaos.” Another community garden in the Maoz Aviv neighborhood will also be featured. It is one of the most successful gardens in Tel Aviv, and local residents are interested in turning it into an open community center.