The Living Wall

With each step you take deeper into Ruth W. Williams Hall, you can see nature was a large consideration during its design. As students learn about climate change and natural selection, they find themselves surrounded by walls covered in green: be it paint, photos of the outdoors, floor-to-ceiling glass windows, or living, photosynthesizing, growing plants. They are stapled against a faux-wood backdrop in large brown sacs filled with packaged potting soil. Above them is a single ever-burning light-source—not a grow lamp or a window, but a single fluorescent bulb. While caring for these plants in the last few months, I would wait for a guest of the college to ask me why the plants looked so unhealthy. Instead tours would pass by one after another, cooing over the plants. Alive! Can you believe it? Nature, but in here!

Without a proper light source or light-dark cycle, the plants on the wall are not the most beautiful, not the favorites of faculty and the community, and not significant to the wildlife beyond the walls of Ruth W. Williams. They are only the survivors. They have sustained themselves only because of their ability to suffer through sub-optimal conditions. They stretch themselves thin and etiolated, as if being taller or longer than their neighbor would bring them bright and plentiful sunlight. They grow where less hardy plants grew and stopped growing, also searching for light.

Perhaps, in that, there is a piece of nature growing in the living wall along with them.