These Designers Are Turning Ugly Street Ads Into Living Flower Pots

You can find thickly-layered paste posters in any city. But in Madrid, creatives are giving them new life.

Guerilla urbanism is a very Jane Jacobsian approach to urban design. It puts the agency to change a community in the hands of the people who live there. The term describes any act that instigates change to the urban environment at a grassroots level, rather than through a top-down mandate, and can involve gardening in abandoned lots, pop-up stores or artists’ spaces, public seating made from discarded materials, or any other type of small, low-cost beautification efforts that could have a long-term benefit to a community.


It was with that approach in mind that Juan Frias and Federico Moreno, two advertising creatives who met while working at Leo Burnett in Madrid, created their Plants of Posters project. Disillusioned by the lack of greenery in major cities like Madrid, the pair took an inventive approach to urban gardening: Potting plants in the multi-layered ads and posters that accumulate on the sides of city walls and buildings.

[Photo: Plants of Posters]
Frias and Moreno have “planted” greenery at dozens of locations around Madrid, and have also provided instructions for anyone to do it on their site. The gist is this: First, you find a wall that has layers of posters behind the one on top–which together will create a thickness similar to cardboard. You follow the provided pattern to make a foldable cardboard planter, then use that as a stencil for cutting the same shape out of a street poster with an X-Acto knife. Fold the paper into a planter, using the model as a guide. Then glue it back into the street poster using a biodegradable glue that’s similar to papier-mache paste–water, flour, and vinegar (for preservation). Put in a small plant, light enough for the planter to hold.

It’s a small intervention, but the results that Frias and Moreno display on their site are enough to brighten up a city block, while still blending into the plastered street posters that are an indelible part of any major city. Try your own by visiting their website here.


About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.