Spaces We Forget

I ride the Red Line to work every day, and my favorite part of the trip is invariably snaking around the curves of the track that center around the Sheridan stop. Part of the reason is that I love seeing Wrigley Field each day, and this time of year, dreaming of spring. The other reason is it’s such a gorgeous view of the rooftops around Wrigleyville. Not the ones that sell tickets to the Cubs games; literally the rooftops on the typical Chicago three-story walk-ups. There’s an abundance of them there, and the rhythm of them is beautiful from the vantage point of the El.

Allison Arieff has an outstanding post on her New York Times blog today. It’s all about unused spaces in cities, and she opens her article with a Buckminster Fuller quote:

“Our beds are empty two-thirds of the time.
Our living rooms are empty seven-eighths of the time.
Our office buildings are empty one-half of the time.
It’s time we gave this some thought.”
— R. Buckminster Fuller

When you start looking for them, the unused spaces in cities are staggering in their breadth and complexity. What better example than Chicago’s rooftops?
So here’s my idea for Chicago: can we make a “transform your roof into green space” toolkit? What would it take to create gardens and parks atop our brownstones and graystones? I believe one of the major impediments is the need to structurally transform roofs to accommodate green rooftops. Can we find a way around that?

I bet we can if we set our minds to it.

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2 responses to “Spaces We Forget

  1. As a former developer focused on sustainability I love your thought on green roofs. There are so many benefits to the individual, the city, and the world.

    The only problem is cost and structural need. I think the city should require that new roof permits require the structure to handle the weight if the roof structure is being replaced.

    I like the blog, and I’ll keep visiting.



    • Thanks for your note, Marrty. I just started reading a book called “Square Foot Gardening,” and am taken by the ability to grow plants in 6″ of soil. I’m wondering if inventing new soil mixtures for roofs, or even adapting some of the ideas from the book (i.e. the whole roof may not have to be green… what if we populated them with 4′ x 4′ x 6″ planting boxes, with 3′ between?) Somehow, I think there’s an answer out there that we’re missing. Not sure what it is yet.

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