When we took an architectural boat tour of Chicago last summer, I got the feeling that rooftop gardens, which are all the rage there and elsewhere, was a modern invention.

Nope.

Like our story on pergola, roof gardens are an old idea with modern benefits. They were around even before the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, more than 2,500 years ago.

Today, rooftop gardens are playing an increasingly important role by helping to counter the “urban heat effect,” caused by too much concrete and not enough green space.

Whether the roof garden is a communal oasis of green in a sea of concrete or a private sanctuary, its beauty has appealed to people through the ages. These below are a few we found on Houzz.com (and other sites) that capture both the beauty and utility of roof gardens.

Rooftop Gardens in History

The Romans had rooftop gardens and so did medieval Egyptians and they used them in some of the same ways we do now, for beauty and agriculture. In the late 1800s, with the development of high-rise buildings, roof gardens became popular on everything from apartment buildings to fire houses.
 


 

 
Rooftop Gardens: Ancient Idea - Modern Benefits - Casa Grande Roof Garden - Santiago de Cuba

Rooftop Garden: Casa Grande in Santiago de Cuba


 

The Urban Oasis

Plants lower the temperature on the roof (and the air around it) dramatically. In one scientific experiment, when the outdoor temperaature reached 95°F., the standard roof reached 158° while the green roof reached only about 77°F.

In a big city with multiple green roofs, that makes a big difference. Plus, because the roof is cooler, people need less airconditioning, which creates a kind of cooling “loop.”
 

Rooftop Gardens: Ancient Idea - Modern Benefits - Modern Urban Roof - Patio

Metro Roof Patio: Image by Elad Gonen & Zeev Beech


 
Rooftop Gardens: Ancient Idea - Modern Benefits - Modern Urban Roof Garden - Patio - Dallas

Dallas Rooftop Gardens by Harold Leidner Landscape Architects


 
Rooftop Gardens: Ancient Idea - Modern Benefits - Modern Urban Roof Garden - Patio - Chicago

Chicago Rooftop Gardens by Prassas Landscape Studio LLC


 

Suburban Rooftop Gardens

We found stunning rooftop gardens in the suburbs and country as well. Here they are personal single home dwellings…

Rooftop Gardens: Ancient Idea - Modern Benefits - Suburban - Lakeside - Rooftop Garden - Patio - Seattle

Lakeside Roof Garden by McClellan Architects


 
Rooftop Gardens: Ancient Idea - Modern Benefits - Suburban - Rooftop Garden

Suburban Roof Garden by Feldman Architecture, Inc.


 
Rooftop Gardens: Ancient Idea - Modern Benefits - Rooftop Garden - Suburban - Green Roof

Suburban Roof Garden by Feldman Architecture, Inc.


 

Rooftop Gardens: The Green Roof

The last two above are a special kind of rooftop garden — the green roof or living roof — where the space is not a patio but a garden. A green roof is covered with plants and soil over a waterproof base.

Green roofs reduce water run-off since they are designed to collect rain for the plants to use. This makes the roofs last longer (saving materials) and keeps dirt and chemicals out of the urban water systems. Multiple roof gardens also increase air quality. In one German study streets without trees had an air pollutant count up to six times higher compared to one with trees in the same neighborhood.

Here are a few green roofs that caught my eye…

Rooftop Gardens: Ancient Idea - Modern Benefits - Rooftop Garden - Green Roof - Montreal

Montreal Green Roof: Image by Alexandre Parent


 
Rooftop Gardens: Ancient Idea - Modern Benefits - Rooftop Garden - Green Roof - Vancouver

Vancouver Green Roof Garden by Natural Balance Home Builders


 
Rooftop Gardens: Ancient Idea - Modern Benefits - Rooftop Garden - Green Roof - Santa Barbara - California

Green Roof in Santa Barbara by Maienza-Wilson Interior Design + Architecture

So what do you think? Would you ever put a roof garden on your roof? Sound off with a comment!
 


Outdoor Rooms: Part of the Castle
Pergola: Add Beauty to Your Backyard
Decorating with Color: Carla’s Style

 


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