News Brief

Roof Gardens: History, Design, and Construction

by Theodore Osmundson, FASLA, 1999. W. W. Norton & Co., New York. Hardcover, 318 pages, $75.

Roof Gardens is a valuable resource for anyone involved with the creation of green spaces on top of buildings or above underground parking garages.

Author Theodore Osmundson, a leader in the landscape architecture field for the last half-century, has done a superb job at chronicling, with photos and descriptions, several hundred roof garden projects throughout North America and worldwide. Much of the book is comprised of these photographic tours.

Roof Gardens focuses primarily on roofs designed as formal gardens and terraces—including ground-level urban parks atop parking garages that one would not think of as roofs at all. “Green roofs,” designed solely for stormwater management, urban heat-island mitigation, and air purification, are not covered to a significant extent in the book, and we miss being shown some of the premier recent examples of these roofs, such as The GAP’s new San Bruno, California office building, designed by William McDonough + Partners and Gensler Associates and completed in 1997 (see EBN Vol. 7, No. 10).

While there is a several-page discussion of environmental advantages of roof gardens that addresses the benefits mentioned above, the coverage is only superficial. And even though there are two chapters devoted to siting considerations and roof garden construction, the book’s strengths are not in its technical content. Some of the newer European green roof technologies and system components, though described, are not given nearly the attention they deserve, and cost is barely touched upon anywhere. Nonetheless, Roof Gardens provides the best overview available on the potential—and indeed the reality—of replacing some of the barren roofs that sit atop our cities with resplendent gardens.



Published March 1, 2000

(2000, March 1). Roof Gardens: History, Design, and Construction. Retrieved from

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