Sonny Ward’s “The Grass Wall” is a cross between a partition and a Chia Pet.
While most walls protect against the weather, “The Grass Wall” is nurtured by it. Ward, an architect and artist, layered and compressed corrugated cardboard with soil and seeds and threaded rods to hold the structure together. As the rain and sun hit the walls, they begin to grow.
Ward and Corey Miller, Marty Schibler and Craig Thompson, his designers from June Street Architecture in Los Angeles, built one 25-foot wall in Raspberry Park at Raspberry and Spruce streets and the other in Centennial Park at 12th and Ferry streets.
“It’s pretty shocking to see a pile of cardboard growing grass out of it,” Ward says. “It’s a sort of living sculpture. I would call it vertical soil.”
The wall is about 30 inches high and two feet thick – a density that reminds Ward of the old stonewalls found in New England. “I think it’s a way of greening spaces that aren’t normally green. It’s a new way of planting and a different way of looking at the landscape.”
This isn’t the first time corrugated cardboard has been his building material of choice. In the mid-90s when a feminist retreat called Camp Sister Spirit in Ovett, Mississippi was being harassed by locals, Ward constructed a small cabin from cardboard at the retreat grounds. Created to be a safe haven for domestic violence survivors and lesbian couples, Camp Sister Spirit was using garden sheds to help house people, he says.
Ward received a grant from the Arcus Foundation through University of California at Berkeley to help camp residents build a cabin out of discarded cardboard he found in back of stores. “They would create these dwellings out of the trash of the people who had ostracized them,” he says. People who came for weekend retreats would sleep in it.
He isn’t sure if the cabin, which had shingles and was covered in latex paint, is still standing. “I do know it made it through Katrina,” he says.
Ward has a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Woodbury University and master’s in architecture from University of California at Los Angeles.
Find Grass Wall at map locations 6 and 7