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Sky Gardens ~
Travels in Landscape Architecture

December 2004 ~ Part 1

The Illinois State Flag

Chicago and Illinois State, U.S My family and I lived in the Chicago suburbs of Oak Park and Elmhurst when I was a kid  growing up in the sixties, and one of my fondest memories was of our arching,  canopied-shaded tree lined streets appropriately named "Morning Glory" and "Elm."  My dad was a huge admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright, Japanese abstract art and architecture in general, having spent spent time in the Far East during WW II and the Korean War.

And with cousins in the Midwest - Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota - we traveled the area extensively, visiting parks, forests, rural pastoral vistas - including historic covered bridges - and of course the various area Wrightscapes.  I suppose it's no big surprise then that I should appreciate the Prairie School philosophy of integrating the land and the built environment, and the principles of organic architecture.

Mayor Daley atop Chicago CIty Hall; Photo by Stephen J. Carrera / AP

Photo by Stephen J. Carrera / AP;
"Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, right, stands on top of his city hall's green roof;" Source: MSNBC News article "Is that a Garden on Your Roof? of 9.14.04.

So it is also with no surprise for me, as well as others, to be proud of this beautiful part of the U.S. since the City of Chicago, led by Mayor Richard M. Daley, has chosen to throw down the ecological gauntlet and set a tough environmental standard for municipal construction by vowing to make Chicago "the greenest city in America."

In 2000 the mayor chose to exemplify his own sustain-able design philosophy by building an air quality and temperature test greenroof atop the Chicago City Hall, probably the most famous and photographed example of a government greenroof project application to date - read the Case Study.  Completed in the summer of 2001 and encompassing one square block and twelve stories high, over 20,000 herbaceous and mostly native prairie plants were installed as plugs, including 112 woody shrubs, and even a Cockspur Hawthorn and Prairie Crabapple tree.  Thus began the initiation of Daley's "Green Quest."

Did you give or receive the perfect green Christmas gift?  You might be interested in reading about The Great Chicago Fire Sale - "America's First City Sponsored eBay Charity Auction" and their "Priceless Item #1190."  What was it?  According to the website, "on December 2, 2004, Chicago will once again make history when we launch the first-ever municipally sponsored eBay charity auction. Auction items will include Chicago related objects, one-of-a-kind experiences and special services. The proceeds will benefit the Chicago Cultural Center, Cultural Grants, and Gallery 37."  Specifically, Item #1190 was none other than A Private Tour of the City of Chicago City Hall Rooftop Gardens - lunch for six included!  The tour guide was the Honorable Mayor Richard M. Daley.

So much has been written about the Chicago City Hall that we selected Katherine Millett's article entitled "Birds on a Cool Green Roof  ~ Can the roof of Chicago's City Hall take urban nature to a higher level?" for our Guest Feature for December 2004.  Originally published in the Summer 2004 issue of the Chicago Wilderness Magazine, we are pleased to offer it here.

Chicago City Hall Greenroof; Photo by M.S. Thompson

The Chicago City Hall Greenroof; Photo by M.S. Thompson; Originally published in the Summer 2004 Chicago Wilderness Magazine.

Because this region of the country is so committed to green architecture, we also chose to highlight another Chicago area greenroof for our January 2005 Guest Feature Article - read:   january - Horticulture Therapy: Rooftop Garden Creates An Oasis For Wellness & Rehabilitation - By Ed Jarger, Regional Greenroof Product Manager with American Hydrotech.

Examples of the many other public and private greenroofs found within the Illinois green building market to be highlighted include the first rehab building in the U.S. to have achieved the US Green Building Council's LEED Platinum rating, the Chicago Center for Green Technology, see below.

Green Roofs can be successfully incorporated into new or retrofitted LEED certified projects such as the Chicago Center for Green Technology, which has earned a LEED Platinum rating - the only rehabbed building in the nation to have been awarded this prestigious rating by the US Green Building Council.  Architectural Rendering Courtesy of ©Farr Associates.  Click here for Project info.

As I do when I am compiling information for my Sky Gardens articles, questionnaires were sent out in October to the design and government greenroof community notables, and perhaps because of the holidays or the City of Chicago's RFI, I am still receiving greenroof project details and photos (and am expecting additional profiles) - so please check back and feel free to contribute background info about greenroofs within both Chicago and the entire state of Illinois...

Join me later for Part II when I will have completed compiling the numerous greening activities of the windy city, Chicago, and its Germany-inspired Mayor, Richard M. Daley's love of roof gardening and greenroofing.

Linda is founder and publisher of, a greenroof design consultant, and has been a Delta Air Lines international flight attendant since 1979.  All opinions expressed in this column are exclusively those of Linda S. Velazquez. Delta Air Lines neither contributes to nor endorses this column or website. (And, Yes, she is still flying.)

Linda went back to school and received her Bachelor’s of Landscape Architecture degree from the University of Georgia in 2000.   She received her LEED™ Accredited Professional designation in August, 2004, and welcomes your comments; contact her at:

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