Green Roofs - Living Architecture Monitor - Fall 2017 - 17
Photo courtesy of Hanna Hoggatt Photography
DESIGN AWARD CATEGORY
Rooftop Wheat Prairie
Pat O'Bryan, Bulley & Andrews
Green Roof Designer, Manufacturer, Installer
Molly Meyer, Omni Ecosystems
Studio Gang Architects
Len Skiba, Daccord LLC
Wheat Farming & Processing
Tracy Boychuk, The Roof Crop LLC
CHICAGO'S AMBER WAVES OF GRAIN
he Chicago Wheat Prairie is a unique, picturesque landscape growing three
stories above a bustling Chicago intersection. A complete anomaly in aesthetics
and general design, it is the only rooftop in the city growing amber waves of grain.
The golden wheat accented by bright wildflowers offers city dwellers a one-of-a-kind
visual splendor. To immerse visitors into the wheat prairie, a room of floor-to-ceiling
glass windows was constructed in the middle of the roof, offering incredible views
from all angles.
In designing this roof, a team of architects and ecologists sowed a crop of red
winter wheat into a 4,700-square-foot, 5-inch rooftop prairie. The grain's purpose
was threefold: creating a singular pastoral aesthetic for the client, one that mirrored
the Midwestern landscape; providing wind protection for cover crops and wildflowers
also growing in the meadow; and determining the extent to which green roofs could
address food security issues in urban landscapes vis-a-vis cereal grain production.
The proof-of-concept research conducted at this site resulted in the first-known
rooftop wheat harvest, which produced 66 pounds of high-quality whole wheat pastry
flour from a hyperlocal source, create employment opportunities along the way, and
provided a working model for urban grain production.
With more cities incentivizing green roofs, this project takes important steps in
shaping the future of urban landscapes. It lays important groundwork for creating
a city where rooftops are no longer passive landscapes but spaces for discovery,
productivity and resiliency. Judges praised the project for its interesting mixture of
agriculture and ecology.
"The unassuming star of this project was the prolific crop of winter wheat which matured into an edible,
harvestable grain. The amber waves created a unique pastoral aesthetic for the client, protected the underlying
prairie from wind damage, and tasted delicious when milled into pastry flour and baked into cookies."
- Omni Ecosystems CEO Molly Meyer
"With more than fifty species planted on top of a historic building, our mini prairie functions more as a thriving
ecosystem than a green roof, creating food and habitat for birds, butterflies, insects, fungi, and now people."
- Studio Gang Founding Principal Jeanne Gang
LIVING ARCHITECTURE MONITOR / FALL 2017 / 17