Extraordinary Gardens In the Sky: Putting Green Space On Your Roof

With our current obsession with green roofs, urban farms, and skyscraper beekeeping, it’s easy to forget that plopping some vegetation—or animal life—on top of our buildings is actually an age-old practice.

Indeed, roof top gardens have been adding vitality, warmth, and sustenance for urban dwellers since 400 B.C., when ancient Mesopotamians would grow plants on the roofs and terraces of their ziggurats. These massive stone buildings featured no interior rooms, and the foliage provided much-needed shelter from the sun.



Villa of Mysteries, Pompeii, Italy

The Romans also incorporated gardens into their architecture. The Villa of Mysteries, at the edge of Pompei, provides an illustration of a typical Roman building, with its U-shaped floor plan and a raised planted terrace surrounding the main building. This terrace garden provided the villa’s inhabitants with an outdoor living area, and is an early example of the fluidity between interior and exterior spaces.

Roof gardens again flourished in the mid-20th century as a key aspect of modernism. Le Corbusier’s Five Points encapsulated this trend, with its incorporation of a flat roof with a garden. The flora on the roof replaced the terra firma lost in the building footprint and brought the natural world into the building design.

Now, as cities become more and more vertical and our populations ever denser, the rooftop garden is perhaps more popular than ever, providing more outdoor space, insulation, durability, and beauty to our landscapes and homes. Here are examples of contemporary green roofs that illustrate this feature’s perennial popularity.





The CottageGray Organschi Architecture, US





Cuny HouseGuz Architects, Singapore







Mill Valley CabinsFeldman Architecture, Mill Valley, US



Jayampathi Aluvihare HouseChanna Horombuwa, Kandy, Sri Lanka





2 Bar House, Menlo Park, US







Sky Garden HouseGuz Architects, Sentosa Island, Singapore







Villa RondeCiel Rouge Creation, Japan



House on the Hill / Casa en el CerroMiguel Barahona and PYF Arquitectura, Spain





8 House, BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group, Copenhagen, Denmark





Teo MINESDCA: Design Collective Architects, Malaysia





Forum HominiActivate Architects, South Africa



House in CaledonIan MacDonald Architect Inc, Caledon, Canada