Greenery on the green line: smart greenhouse allows plants to grow underground in Prague metro station


People passing through Prague’s Můstek metro station should find their commutes considerably brightened by some fresh greenery that has been placed there. A new six-metre-wide installation that extends from floor to ceiling contains around 30 plants growing in a smart greenhouse.

Můstek station on the A line of Prague metro | Photo: Paul-Henri Perrain,  Radio Prague International

When you walk into the typically grey and concrete entrance hall to the green ‘A’ line at Můstek station, you will see that it is now not only the metro line on the map that is green. A new installation, Project “Metrorost”, designed by scientists from the Czech Technical University in Prague (ČVUT) working with the Prague public transport company (DPP), brings a little slice of nature into the artificially lit and mechanical caverns of the Prague metro system.

The structure inside which the plants are placed has a purposefully irregular and unusual shape, explains Josef Haber from ČVUT’s University Centre for Energy-Efficient Buildings (UCEEB).

Metrorost | Photo: UCEEB ČVUT

“We tried to design the installation so that it seems to come out of the wall into the space, and to make it kind of shocking, in its own way. We decided to make a contrast between the vegetation, which doesn’t have a lot of sharp edges, and the shape of the construction around it, which does.”

The plants are housed in a smart greenhouse, which is specially designed to be durable and for the plants to require as little human care as possible. The greenhouse monitors and measures all the things that the plants need to survive, says Daniel Adamovský, another scientist from ČVUT.

"The greenhouse has sensors which monitor the basic things in the environment – temperature, air and substrate humidity. It has an automated irrigation system – it measures the temperature and water levels, so we know how much water is left as it circulates through the system.”

Entrance to the Můstek metro station on the Wenceslas Square | Photo: Paul-Henri Perrain,  Radio Prague International

Although the metro station is underground, so no natural light reaches the plants, the artificial light inside the greenhouse was specially selected to imitate sunlight as much as possible, so the plants can still thrive. And even though it’s quite cold down in the metro station during the winter, the plants should be able to survive even when the temperature drops below zero, says Adamovský.

“We already have experience with this – the plants’ first baptism, as it were, was at the end of November or beginning of December, when temperatures outside dropped to minus 8 degrees Celsius – so it was truly a baptism of fire, or rather of ice. But the plants survived. Also, the substrate in which the plants are growing is heated, so it can warm up the roots.”

Metrorost | Photo: UCEEB ČVUT

The aim of the project is partly for the scientists to be able to test the functionality and sustainability of the smart greenhouse, as it could potentially be used elsewhere. But its main purpose is simply to make people’s journeys more pleasant as they pass through the station. We have probably all heard of the numerous studies that point to the importance of seeing greenery and spending time in nature for our mental and emotional wellbeing, and while not quite a substitute for going for a walk in the forest, hopefully the Můstek greenery will at least help to brighten some people’s day.

Authors: Anna Fodor , Tereza Bartůňková | Source:
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