Hot, Dry Madrid Aims For A Cooler, Greener Future

A huge, vertical garden covering the wall of Madrid's CaixaForum is both a work of art and something practical for the environment. It's among several steps the city has taken to fight climate change.
An artist's rendering of Madrid's Gran Vía, one of the city's biggest and busiest avenues, shows what the thoroughfare would look like if building facades were covered in plants. Madrid is offering tax incentives to companies or private owners willing to install roof and facade gardens, to combat the effects of climate change. Source: courtesy of the Ayuntamiento de Madrid/Madrid City Hall

Tourists flood the area of Madrid's "Museum Mile" — a stretch of the huge, eight-lane Paseo del Prado thoroughfare that's home to Spain's most renowned art museums. It's smoggy and crowded with all the traffic.

At the CaixaForum, an arts foundation, people pause. It's what's on the outside of this museum, rather than what's inside, that's halted them: a giant vertical garden with more than 15,000 plants from 300 native species — begonias, yucca plants, ferns — coating an entire outer wall stretching the length of a city block.

"I just think it's really cool to see all the different vegetation!" says Laura Laskin, a visitor from Philadelphia.

"We honestly

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