Collection by Jaime Gillin

World's First Lichen Garden?


Last spring, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art unveiled its new 14,000-square foot rooftop sculpture garden, spangled with works by Ellsworth Kelly, Louise Bourgeois and Kiki Smith. To a casual visitor, the space—with its wooden benches, dark stone walls, and cult Blue Bottle Coffee kiosk—looked minimalist but complete. It wasn't. Last week, CMG Landscape Architecture added their long-awaited finishing touch: a cultivated (and nearly microscopic) ‘lichen garden,’ possibly the world’s first. I joined them on a sunny Wednesday to help with the installation, and document the process.

The landscape architects, along with an artist and a lichenologist, gathered to 'innoculate' the 14-foot-high walls...
Here's Tim Milliken, the lichenologist, who developed a procedure for harvesting and transferring living lichen so that...
Over the past few years Milliken has gathered various species of lichen, organized by color, form, and source.
Some of the specimens were collected from art patron (and SFMOMA board member) Steve Oliver's sculpture ranch in Sonoma.
Elise Brewster, a local artist who collaborated on the project, says that lichen is sexier than it sounds: "Lichen is...
Then the designers and volunteers poked the gluey mixture into the holes and cracks of the textured stone wall.
Kevin Conger, project director and principal at CMG, shows how it's done.
Lichen is a pioneer organism that thrives where nothing else can—arctic tundra, hot deserts, rocky coasts and toxic...
Conger and Rayna Deniord, the project architect (shown here), conceived of the organism as a primal way of introducing...
Eventually (like in years) these lichen plantlings will grow into patches of electric green and orange on the vertical...
The crew hard at work, in the shadow of a sculpture.
Here's what the garden looked like at the end of the day, after eight hours of careful dabbing.
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