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By Arwa Lodhi
It wasn’t long ago that rooftops were nothing more than wasted concrete surfaces, more likely to be occupied by cooling towers and other bits of mechanical ‘kit’ than people enjoying a view of the city skyline. The fact that last year marked the time in our history when over 50% of all humans lived in cities means that urban centres are suffering from overcrowding like never before. What better place to escape the crowds, noise and pollution than above it all?
Architects and city planners are now realising the previously ignored urban rooftop can function as a green space, observation deck, bar and restaurant, or even urban farmland. In some cases, green roofs are planted purely pragmatically, to insulate buildings, protecting them from cold and cooling them when hot.
In order from ‘least’ to ‘most’ eco friendly, here’s our pick of some of the most innovative examples of how what was once thought as ‘dead space’ can be transformed into something functional, practical and beautiful.
6. Loof, Singapore
Height-wise, Loof is a humble affair, at only the third floor of Odeon Towers. But this was Singapore’s first standalone rooftop bar, and it offers a bit of fresh air, thanks to its canopied open-air environment, which boasts lush foliage through their integrated green wall. This place really feels like an oasis far removed from the crowds down on the street.
The Lantern is one of Singapore’s newest rooftop bars but its panoramic views over the Singapore Central Business District skyline and the Marina Bay has already made it a popular venue for locals and tourists alike. The name takes its cue from the Chinese description for Clifford Pier. Known as the Red Lantern pier, it formed the landing point for immigrants arriving to Singapore during the 19th and 20th Centuries. Today, the only people landing are the well- heeled locals and tourists perched at the waterfront end of a 25m pool – exercising and relaxing under the Asian night sky.
4. Kingston Riverside, London
With its Royal Parks, garden squares and myriad open spaces, London is already amongst the greenest cities in Europe, but city planners are constantly looking for ways to tackle climate change and encourage biodiversity. There is growing recognition that thoughtful landscape design promotes personal health and wellbeing, so leading developers, such as Fisher, Tomlin & Bowyer, the creators of Kingston Riverside, have also signed up to a good practice charter, part of a collective “green” vision that aims to put nature and imaginative landscaping at the heart of new residential communities, creating private sanctuary spaces for residents as well as an uplifting public realm.
The Eagle Street Rooftop Farm
Did you know there’s a 6,000 square foot organic vegetable garden in the centre of New York city? Overlooking Manhattan, the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm grows greens so successfully, it sells fruit and veg to the public via its own seasonal farmers market and it also provides produce to nearby restaurants, including Anella’s, Spritzenhaus and Marlow & Sons. Those who are interested in gardening and want to get outdoors more can sign up as a volunteer and work in the gardens themselves, or simply learn about urban agriculture from the site’s Growing Chefs-trained education team.
2. Bell, Book and Candle Tower Garden
This innovative restaurant allows diners to select their own garden-sourced items from the restaurant’s ever-changing seasonal menu. Committed fully to procuring produce that is “local, organic, sustainable and overall responsible” Bell Book and Candle operates its own aeroponic rooftop tower garden. Needless to say, the views are spectacular, too!
1. Toronto’s Rooftops
On April 30th, 2012, Toronto became the first city in North America with a bylaw that requires roofs to be green. A ”green roof, also known as a living roof, uses various appropriate plants to create a barrier between the sun’s rays and the tiles or shingles of the roof.
Toronto’s new legislation will require all residential, commercial and institutional buildings over 2,000 square meters to have between 20 and 60 percent living roofs. While this is the first city-wide mandate involving green roofs, Toronto’s decision follow’s in the footsteps of other cities, like Chicago and New York.
The plants absorb some pollution, and the building (and its inhabitants) enjoy more comfortable indoor temperatures as a result.