It’s always a good feeling to glimpse a touch of green in the midst of a grey urban sprawl. Rooftop gardens are invading our urban spaces - they’re on the rise, and equal parts eco-friendly and chic. They add beauty to industrial areas and help lessen our impact upon the environment. Plus, they’re also statistically good for employee morale and productivity compared to a drab break.

The trend isn’t bucking, either. In late 2015, France came close to passing a law stating that all new commercial buildings were required to have either solar panels or a green, growing roof. While the law was blocked (primarily by big business lobbying), it was a popular enough piece of legislation that you can still expect new, exciting images of the Parisian sprawl in the near future, replete with flowering gardens rather than concrete rooftops.

In celebration of the world’s shift towards greener, sustainable practices, here are 20 of our favourite green rooftops and rooftop gardens from around the world. Imagine a future where an entire city would be swarming with green buildings and roofs!

Museé du Quai Branlys, France

Museé du Quai Branlys, France

Ateliers Jean Nouvel Architects

The vibrant greenery of the Museé de Quai Branlys sits in the heart of Paris, right in the shade of the Eiffel Tower itself. The surface is alive and bustling, but with dignity in the practical architecture of the design.

The Great Wall of WA, Australia

The Great Wall of WA, Australia

Luigi Rosselli Architects

Straight from the outback in Western Australia, The Great Wall of WA is a 230 metre long wall, home to twelve residences reclaimed by the surrounding bushland and sandy plains. Designed to serve a nearby cattle station, the houses are built into the side of a sand dune to provide maximum thermal mass and thus the coolest indoor temperatures.

The structure is entirely comprised of the elements surrounding it, with the red clay coming from the original site and gravel coming from a nearby river and borehole. The pavilion that sits above the homes serves as a multi-functional community hub, chapel, and meeting area.

Check back on this one in a couple of years to see how it has developed!

Chongqing Taoyuanju Community Centre, China

Chongqing Taoyuanju Community Centre, China

Vector Architects

A lush, sprawling series of green grass and greener foliage connects the separate faculties of this community centre in Chonqing. The intention or starting point with this project was to fuse the outline of the new building with the existing landscape, and indeed the architecture itself is built to flow with the existing geographical foundation of the area.

The community hub, comprised of three centres - cultural, athletic, and public - is unified under the roof that continuously weaves across the three buildings, which exist separate and independently to one another. Natural light filters in through skylights, openings, windows, cantilevers, and corridors that also help to blur the boundaries between indoor and outdoor. The whole space is a merging of the structure, landscape, mountain, sky, trees, and surrounding environment.

School for Sciences and Biodiversity, France

School for Sciences and Biodiversity, France

Chartier Dalix Architects

This French primary school for Science and Biodiversity has incorporated a veritable park into their rooftop. They’ve taken the time and care to not just decorate their space with plant life, but to create a thriving ecosystem with bird, animal, and plants living together harmoniously in a fully functioning ecosystem.

The concept behind the design of the school was to create a landscape that would draw elements from its setting within the wider landscape. A living wall encircles the structure and connects the two main buildings. This mineral wall is made from concrete blocks with indentations and staggering designed to create the perfect environment to house new habitats for wildlife and vegetation.

Villa Topoject, South Korea

Villa Topoject, South Korea

Architecture of Novel Differentiation

Another semi-submerged piece designed by architectural company Architecture of Novel Differentiation (AND) inhabits an artificial hill complete with rolling green lawn, ponds, and gardens aplenty.

Nestled in a small valley within the mountains near the capital city, Seoul, this home gently lifts its roof to follow the topography. Like other buildings in this series, the intention behind Villa Topoject is to fuse interior and exterior, man-made and natural, and it certainly fulfills this purpose.

Brandeis University Rooftop Farm, USA

Brandeis University Rooftop Farm, USA

What started as 850 milk crates filled with soil, seedlings, and a bit of water, has transformed and grown into the Brandeis Rooftop Farm, a carefully cultivated crop garden sitting on the rooftop terrace between science buildings at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. There’s beauty in the perfectly placed rows, showing that not every rooftop garden has to adhere to the ‘reclaimed by nature’ look or be a show piece. A simple - if large - garden, providing O2 to the atmosphere and food for lunch.

A volunteer student-run initiative, the Brandeis Rooftop Farm now grows plentiful local veggies like broccoli, kale, arugula, and spinach to sell at the Brandeis Farmer's Market and donate to local food pantries and shelters. The Brandeis Rooftop Farm is designed to not only create discussion about design space and nature, but to also make use of an underutilised space in the university while also connecting students and creating a common area where people can learn and work together.

Kensington Roof Gardens, UK

Kensington Roof Gardens, UK

Ralph Hancock

An urban oasis invisible from Kensington High Street and six floors above a clothing store, the Kensington Rooftop Gardens are home to over 500 species of plants and shrubs over an acre and a half. Breathtakingly immaculate and exotic, these gardens where the largest rooftop gardens in Europe until 2012. The gardens are now part of Virgin Limited Edition, hosting a members' club, private function room, and a restaurant.

The gardens are themselves divided into three themed areas, with a vine-creeping Spanish Garden, a wisteria-and-archway Tudor paradise, and an English Woodland featuring in excess of 100 different tree species. A testament to the transportational powers of nature.

Parkroyal on Pickering, Singapore

Parkroyal on Pickering, Singapore

WOHA Architects

Imagine your very own high-rise where you can stay in an above-ground forest. The Parkroyal on Pickering in Singapore offers breathtaking forest views from a height 15 floors up, cultivating a separate fantasy-garden on every third floor for the betterment of the city and their guests alike.

WOHA architects are big fans of the notion of a 'green city', one overgrown with vegetation and wildlife. The Parkroyal on pickering is complete with frangipani and palm trees, tropical plants, and cantilevered gardens that allow the greenery to thrive no matter where you are in the building.

Chicago City Hall, Illinois

Chicago City Hall, Illinois

McDonough + Partners | Conservation Design Forum

While the Europeans may have had a head start on the rooftop greenery bandwagon, America is showing that it’s more than capable of keeping up. Chicago’s City Hall, a tall building in an even taller city, has a splash of greenery that surely provides a moment of repose for all those workers in the surrounding skyscrapers.

Designed in an initiative to improve urban air quality and reduce the urban heat island effect, the enormous green roof serves to even reduce energy bills, saving the City Hall $5,000 a year on energy bills. The rooftop is not usually open to public access, but was designed with the intention to be viewed from vantage points across all 33 taller surrounding buildings.

Mill Valley Cabins, California

Mill Valley Cabins, California

Feldman Architecture | Jori Hook

Nestled in a small stretch of wood in San Francisco, Mill Valley Cabins possess a careful blend of cultivated and wild growth. Plants thrive in and around the stone paths connecting the houses, but the gardens are tended in careful, pleasant rows to provide a mix of human and natural life.

Filling a brief that asked for the building to be blended into the surrounding hillside, the green roof connects the two structures of the home and serve to provide an additional platform to satisfy the client's gardening habit.

Waldspirale, Germany

Waldspirale, Germany

Friedensreich Hundertwasser

The Waldspirale (“Forest Spiral”) in Germany is an apartment complex in Darmstadt that looks anything but ordinary. The spiral shaped structure is thronged with a multitude of gardens, nooks, and hideaways for plant and animal life. Trees poke out from the windows themselves across all twelve floors of this beautiful green maze.

The building is full of quirks that are at first unnoticeable; there are over 1,000 windows yet no two are the same, and that goes for the doors and handles as well. The U-shaped building curves around, its walls securing an inner courtyard and playground, with a small artificial lake for the residents to enjoy. It’s a magical fairytale home, and there truly exists nothing like it!

ACROS Fukuoka Building, Japan

ACROS Fukuoka Building, Japan

Emilio Ambasz

If you’re a fan of the ‘reclaimed by nature look’, then go no further. This Tenjin district half-ziggurat-like building is a tumbled mass of greenery and fibreglass that looks plucked out of a post-apocalyptic scenario where nature has come back to the cities. The shining sides, reflected across the river water, only serve to heighten the interplay of the natural and fabricated inherent in this magnificent design.

Built in 1995, long before the rooftop garden trend started, the building features a massive atrium that injects the interior with billowing sunlight. The building itself is made up of a music hall, conference hall, Cultural Information Centre, and art and craft gallery Takumi Gallery.

Torre Guinigi, Italy

Torre Guinigi, Italy

A bit of a more simple design that has stood the test of time and carries with it plenty of history, the rooftop of Lucca’s Guinigi Tower has a simple cluster of holm oaks that date back as far as the 1300s. Seems like rooftop gardens never really caught on, but never really went out of style either.

This tower certainly looks the part, especially highlighted against the relative lack of skyline in the surrounding Tuscan countryside.

Namba Parks, Japan

Namba Parks, Japan

Obayashi Corporation | EDAW, Inc.

The Namba Parks pictured above is a shopping centre, although you wouldn’t probably think so at first glance. Described as “an oasis in the city where people can enjoy trees and flowers while browsing boutiques”, it’s got gardens galore nestled within its waved design - chosen so that even more life can find a way to thrive within the nooks and shadows.

Retrofitted in Osaka's old baseball stadium, Jerde is both park and shopping centre. While providing greenery and nature that can be visible from afar, the building is connected at street level, allowing pedestrians to explore the trees, streams, waterfalls, ponds, and terraces hiding within.

Gary Comer Youth Centre, Illinois

Gary Comer Youth Centre, Illinois

John Ronan Architects | Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects

Another rooftop garden designed and maintained by students, students at the Gary Comer Youth Centre tend to these gardens. Food and plant material is then sold to local restaurants and the centre cafe.

Winner of an honour award at the 2010 ASLAs for its “sleek and graphic” design that “turns the typical working vegetable garden into a place of beauty and respite”, the garden serves both the urban environment and the youth attending the centre who are in need of support. The rooftop also functions as an outdoor classroom, where students learn anything from maths and horticulture, to cooking and business.

Observatory Tower Penthouse, Sydney

Observatory Tower Penthouse, Sydney

Sitting on the twenty fifth floor with views of the surrounding Sydney Harbour and Harbour Bridge, this sneaky rooftop hideaway ticks all the boxes of views, privacy, comfort, and nature. The manicured, lush country-look garden on this penthouse provides a structured elegance to the high life, where you can sit and sip while watching the NYE fireworks. Perfect if you’ve got a spare couple of million dollars sitting around for renovation and property cost.

Streetdome, Denmark

Streetdome, Denmark

CEBRA | Glifberg + Lykke

A multi-layered strip of green surrounded by an urban concrete skatepark, the StreetDome may seem a little scarce to be featured alongside the other things on this list, but it also operates as an insulator for another hidden moss and sedum garden inside. The StreetDome functions as a cultural centre and multi-park for street sports with a skate park and facilities for parkour, boulder climbing, canoe polo and more.

Even better, the juxtaposition of greenery with the pure urbanity of the skate ramps really brings out the natural elements of the dome, marrying the two concepts of natural and man-made beautifully.

Midori no Tobira, Chelsea

Midori no Tobira, Chelsea

Kazuyuki Ishihara

Midori no Tobira (literally translated to Door of the Green) was inspired by designer Kazuyuki Ishihara’s childhood spent sitting and relaxing inside his own house. The rooftop garden is serene and tranquil yet manages to still bustle with colour and life in its design. A perfect spot to admire either the world or a book.

The roof was designed for display at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2008, with the intention of the designer being to create a secret garden that people would not believe is sitting on a roof. What sets Midori no Tobira apart from the other green roofs is that it seeks to enclose the entire roof space with greenery, including living walls.

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