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Rooftop to Tabletop: Repurposing Urban Roofs for Food Production


Bastille Café and Bar, Seattle, Washington.

Rooftop agriculture can evolve into a lasting movement with continued support from growers, consumers, educators and designers, perhaps in the form of a “Local Foodscape Architecture.”

By Benjamin Engelhard
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Landscape Architecture
University of Washington
109 pages, 2010


Current environmental, social and economic realities have inspired a new generation of city dwellers to find innovative ways to live more sustainably. Food – how it is grown, processed, distributed and consumed – is a common factor in many of these conversations. New frontiers, especially in food production, are being explored in many U.S. cities. One with great untapped potential is our roofs. Indeed, rooftop agricultural production sits at the nexus of two established movements: green roofs and sustainable urban agriculture. This thesis focuses on rooftop food production in four U.S. cities (Portland, Seattle, Chicago and New York City), but it is structured to provide lessons and insights that can be applied more broadly.

In doing so, it presents ways rooftop agriculture can cultivate environmentally, socially, and economically sound and productive cities. It also highlights opportunities for landscape architects to contribute to and shape this emerging movement. Through select case study explorations in these four American cities, the beginnings of a sustainable rooftop agriculture framework is developed.

Table of Contents

List of Figures
Chapter I: Introduction
Critical Stance
Chapter II: Literature Review and Issues Studied
Historical Overview of Urban Garden Movements
Themes in Current Food Movement
Green Roofs
Sustainable Urban Design
Landscape Architecture
Rooftop Agriculture Movement
Chapter III: Case Studies
Project Selection Method
Case Study Considerations
Project 1: Bastille – Seattle, WA
Project 2: Noble Rot – Portland, OR
Project 3: Eagle Street Rooftop Farm – Brooklyn, NY
Project 4: Rooftop Victory Gardens – Chicago, IL
Project 5: Uncommon Ground – Chicago, IL
Chapter IV: Summary and Reflections

See the complete thesis here. Large 5MB download.

1 comment

1 Jacky { 10.25.11 at 6:28 pm }

Great post!! I am also interested in local food production for my thesis next year. Thanks for sharing!