Sparrow and Finch Gardening New Zealand’s shift towards urban density

New Zealand’s shift towards urban density

Why not start a revolution on the rooftops? Since the invention of housing, humans have used roof space. According to legend, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which greened up the ancient city on rooftops and terraces were built by urban dwellers who craved nature.

Rooftop gardens and “green roofs” are a growing trend in both domestic and commercial areas. Roofs, once used to collect rainwater and generate solar energy, are now being used for growing “forests,” reducing climate change and for entertainment and leisure.

The famous roof garden of Friedensreich Hundtwasser on the restrooms at Kawakawa. Shutterstock

Rooftops around the World

There are many examples of rooftop regeneration. Thailand’s Thammasat University, for example, has urban farming on its green rooftop influenced by rice terraces. It also boasts a multi-purpose organic food space and a public commons.

The roof of the Paris Exhibition Centre has been converted into a vegetable garden. This is to reduce the cost of food and feed locals. Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay creates an oasis of lush vegetation in the densely-populated city-state with its “supertrees”.

Read more: Bees in the city: Designing green roofs for pollinators

Closer to home, the artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s famous roof garden on the restrooms in Kawakawa was a precursor to his remarkable Waldspirale building in Darmstadt, Germany.

The spiral roof of the apartment complex has a tree, a testament to his belief that nature and culture can co-exist. Whangarei’s new Hundertwasser Art Centre boasts a forested rooftop with more than 4,500 plants.

Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay. Shutterstock

The green roof

The green roofing of the University of Auckland engineering building is based on similar ideas. The project includes six plots with 3,600 succulent and native plants that were chosen because they can withstand both drought and flooding conditions. The soil substitutes being tested include pumice, bark, and clay.

The Waitakere Civic Centre Green Roof, located to the west, was designed for managing rainwater runoff and increasing energy efficiency. It also promotes biodiversity. The 500 sqm flat garden has ten native plants, including iris and dunes coprosma. The roof is a food source and habitat for local insects and birds.

Read more: Using valuable inner-city land for car parking? In a housing crisis, that doesn’t add up.

Rooftop development also offers the opportunity to decolonize cities, showcasing local culture and ecology and creating Māori spaces. Part of a renaissance in Māori architecture, Auckland International Airport’s green roof was influenced by Korowai and made from flax fiber with geometric patterning.

Remarkables School in Queenstown, located to the south of the city, has a green rooftop that can be used as a classroom.

The Press Lounge in New York. Shutterstock

Enjoying the view while drinking

The rooftop bars and restaurants are the pioneers of the high-rise lifestyle. The Kensington Roof Gardens opened in London in 1938. From 1981 to 2018, Richard Branson’s Babylon restaurant was located there.

The city rooftop bar has become a global phenomenon. Auckland and Wellington offer a variety of options. After the Christchurch earthquake, two bars are located on restored heritage buildings.

Read more: How to cut emissions from transport: ban fossil fuel cars, electrify transport, and get people walking and cycling.

For those old enough to remember, these rooftop playgrounds might make them nostalgic for the real versions from their childhoods.

The US-inspired Kiwis to create rooftop playgrounds that entertained children as their mothers went shopping. The Farmer’s Roof in Auckland allowed children to drive model cars and enjoy a fairground-like atmosphere, complete with a giant toadstool.

Hay’s in Christchurch had cheap rides on fiberglass dinosaurs and spaceships. Between 1937 and 1941, there was a popular creche built on the roof of Wellington’s then-new railway station.


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