Midori no Tobira: An Inspirational Green Door

February 7, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Gavin Walsh

Green Door source: Embassy of Japan in the UKJapanese designer Kazuyuki Ishihara had a unique idea for a green roof that was displayed in the  RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2008.   The Royal Horticultural Society flower show had two categories: Courtyard and Urban Gardens.  Urban was open to a bunch of smaller categories including rooftop gardens.   Kazuyuki’s idea was that you should be able to step out into this ‘secret garden’ and not be able to believe you’re on a roof.

The Green Door from Our Future House Blog

It’s an interesting twist for the green roof industry as it’s not about just coating a roof with sedums, but transforming the green roof into a peaceful garden by enclosing your surroundings with living walls, creating a green cocoon.

Kazuyuki was inspired by his memories as a child of hiding out on the rooftop of his house, and  wanted his roof garden designs to give that same secure, relaxing feeling.

Midori no Tobira from Kazuyuki Ishihara's website

The garden was designed to do well in a space that gets a lot of sun and strong winds so it could thrive on a rooftop.   Key plants on the Midori no Tobira greenroof are Equisetum hyemale, Hosta ‘Blue Wedgewood,’ Iris sibirica ‘Tropic Night,’ Acer palmatum, and Aster x frikartii ‘Monch.’   The garden’s green roof structure is embedded inside and out with moss on the walls and doors.  See a short 31-second video on YouTube.   Kazuyuki won a Gold Medal at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2008 for the design ‘Midori no Tobira’ or ‘Green Door.’


“I wanted to make this kind of green space where people would ask: “Is this really a roof top?” ~ Kazuyuki Ishihara

Midori no Tobira from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, via Julia on

Kazuyuki Ishihara’s work inspired me to start a blog in 2009 to provide useful and interesting information about living walls and vertical gardens, see: http://www.livingwallart.com.

~ Gavin Walsh

Turfed Roofs of Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

August 14, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Aramis sent me this  interesting greenroof photo  yesterday from  “Pictures of the Day”  (August 13, 2009) in the Wall Street Journal Blogs:

Torshavn turf roof by Bob Strong, Reuters
“A worker mowed the grass roof of a government building near Torshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands, Thursday. (Bob Strong/Reuters)”

Very cool photo!   I don’t know if I’d like to be the maintenance guy, though.

Torshavn Harbor, by Erik Christensen, Faroeislands.dk

Torshavn Harbor, by Erik Christensen, Faroeislands.dk

Situated in the North Atlantic halfway between Scotland and Iceland, the Faroe Islands are composed of 18 hilly islands covering about 1400 sq. km and remain relatively unknown.   The Vikings founded the first parliament on the Tinganes peninsiula  in Tórshavn in 825 AD, and the name of the city means Thor’s Harbour, named after the god of thunder and lightning in Norse mythology.   The Faroese usually refer to their capital simply as Havn – harbour, and with a population of about 19,000 (2008) the  city is carpeted with many traditional sod covered roofs.  

Skansin in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands, June 25, 2004, by Erik Christensen, Wikipedia

Skansin in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands, June 25, 2004, by Erik Christensen, Wikipedia

Tinganes is the old part of town, and small wooden houses covered with turf roofs are a common sight.   The oldest one dates back 500 years.

Turf Roofs Everywhere in Torshaven, photo by Jon Fossa, faroeislands.dk

Turf Roofs Everywhere in Torshaven, photo by Jon Fossa, faroeislands.dk

I’ve  only enjoyed  seeing photos of this rugged, picturesque archipelago nation, but have never visited (not yet, at least).     Have any of you?   Tórshavn appears to be a charming medieval city and we’d love to have someone knowledgeable write a Guest Feature on it for Greenroofs.com, especially about their extensive use of turf roofs and how (if at all) their methodology has changed throughout the years.

Please let me know if anyone is interested!

~ Linda V.

Tinganes in Torshavn, photo by Erik Christensen from Faroeislands.dk

Tinganes in Torshavn, photo by Erik Christensen from Faroeislands.dk


Spring Conferences: Stuttgart-Nürtingen and Atlanta Greenroofs, Here We Come!

May 1, 2009 at 12:09 pm

After a flurry of showers, tornadoes, and even a sprinkling of late snow here in the Atlanta area, leaves are boldly unfurling, flowers are sprouting, and the pollen is flowing.   If you’re also in the northern hemisphere, you’re probably experiencing much of the same.   Spring is in full bloom and Spring greenroof conferences are gearing up across the U.S. and the world!   What better time than the season of rebirth to enjoy visiting new or favorite cities and, of course, taking in the greenroof scenery?

Stuttgart has over 3.2 million sf of greenroofs!

We’ve been busy planning for and helping to promote our two favorite conferences devoted exclusively to the organic architecture of greenroof technology: the 2nd International Green Roof Congress in Stuttgart-Nürtingen, Germany on May 25-27 and the 7th Annual Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference, Awards & Trade Show  here in Atlanta, GA on June 3-5.    Each is  an awesome opportunity to meet and greet with industry experts and greenroof colleagues, old and new.     I’ll be talking about both, starting with the German event.

International Green Roof Congress 2009

But first,  some quick  thoughts on traveling during our trying economic times – people ask me how fiscally responsible is it to spend money now  on an international conference – or any conference for that matter, factoring in the expenses plus the cost of missed billing of clients or other income producing work…   Great points, but I see it  also as a working vacation, continuing education, an investment in our future.   Referring to traveling, a recent professional acquaintance of mine commented, “Our interest lies in seeing what else is out there, what experiences (the good, the bad and the ugly) other professionals have had, and provide an opportunity to exchange ideas.”   But, she added, it has to make economic sense, and be perceived as a “good value for our money.”   Meaning, I believe, the educational component must be strong and varied.   And I know that both of these conferences offer incredible opportunities through the lectures, workshops, tours, and just plain networking.   The experiential benefits of participating  in these interactive events  present invaluable hands-on learning through  engagement with the actual designers and planners.      If you can swing it, you simply cannot replicate the knowledge obtained and lessons  learned in-situ.

The venue, K3N, and a niew of the lovely city of Nuertingen

This will be our second participation in the  International Green Roof Congress, after  attending in September, 2004.     Along with many international colleagues we heard from a wide variety of green roof experts, including the late Dr. Dave Beattie,   Prof. Dr. Manfred Köhler, Dr. Nigel Dunnett, Susan K. Weiler, Dr. Franz Alt, and Ho Wan Weng, just to mention a few.

After the success of the first one four years ago,  the second Congress  is once again organized  by the International Green Roof Association  (IGRA) under the patronage of the German Federal Minister of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs, Wolfgang Tiefensee, and co-hosted by the German Roof Gardener Association (DDV).   They have numerous national and international supporters, including the Title Sponsor, ZinCo, Premium Sponsor Dow Hyperlast, and Greenroofs.com as the Media Sponsor.   International supporters include ciria, the construction industry research and information association/UK; European Landscape Contractors Association; International Federation of Landscape Architects; and the Internationale Föderation des Dachdeckerhandwerks e.V.   German national supporters include the FLL, among others (see all).

Mountain Dwellings in Copenhagen and the Zaragoza World Expo 2008

Wolfgang Ansel, the Coordinator, met up with us at last September’s World Green Roof Congress in London, and brought us up to speed with the upcoming Congress and their  amazing line-up of world renown experts and practitioners – see his January Guest Feature INTERNATIONAL GREEN ROOF CONGRESS 2009: “Bringing Nature Back to Town.”  They are concentrating on case studies of truly extraordinary global projects, from  Copenhagen to London, Zaragoza, Nijmegen, Warsaw, Singapore and Fukuoka, Japan where the ACROS – Asian Cross Roads Over the Sea  – designed by Emilio Ambasz, will be  highlighted as an example of his philosophy  and presentation  “The Green over the Grey” – Landscape-cum-Building Designs.

ACROS designed by Emilio Ambasz & Associates

Learning that famed Argentine-born, New York-based  Ambasz himself would be presenting on this amazing 100,000 sf green oasis in the middle of the city sealed the deal for me – I’ve been a fan of his since I went back to school at UGA in the late 1990’s, and even selected him once to study as our architect of choice for a group project on green architecture.   And in 2008 when we inaugurated our Greenroofs of the World Calendar series, we selected the ACROS Fukuoka  Prefectural International Hall for the month of December – the very project I reported on!

Other  not-to-be missed speakers include Bernd W. Krupka, famed German landscape architect, “certified expert” and author of technical books on greenroofs – I’m not sure how you get that designation, but I’ll find out!   He’ll talk about “Basic Green Roof Planning – Vegetation Technology;”  with his many years of experience in the field, Bernd was very helpful to me a few years ago when I was writing my paper “European Airport Greenroofs – A Potential Model for North America,”  (2005).  The always popular British plant expert, Dr. Nigel Dunnett-  soft-spoken but with a bite,  will present “Plant Selection Criteria for Green Roofs – The Question of Biodiversity,” American restoration ecologist Paul Kephart of Rana Creek fame will lecture on “Ecological Designs with Green Roofs,”  and  our knowledgeable and charming Brit colleague Dusty Gedge of Livingroofs.org will discuss “Promoting Green Roofs in the UK – The Greater London Authority Campaign.”

K3N Lecture Hall

And we’ll hear from  these distinguished German professionals as well: our colleague Roland Appl, green roof engineer, President of the International Green Roof Association: “Green Roof Technology – Yesterday – Today – Tomorrow;” Rolf Disch, architect known for  integrating solar into green building design: “Sustainable Architecture in the 21st century,” another esteemed colleague of ours, Prof. Dr. Manfred Köhler, landscape architect, professor at the University of Applied Science Neubrandenburg, and President of WGRIN: “Energy Savings with Green Roofs,” and Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Gilbert Lösken  of Leibniz University of Hanover and  Head of the FLL Green Roof Workgroup: “Key Criteria for Creating Green Roof Guidelines.”   Click here to see the complete list of speakers.

View of Lake Constance

The excursions  will be the real highlight for Aramis and me – last time we went on  the all day ZinCo Green Roof Tour which took us to the Stuttgart region including “Hundertwasserhaus Plochingen” – the Hundertwasser Multi-Family Development, “MAG-Galerien” in Geislingen, Schule Unterensingen, ZinCo International’s Headquarters, and “Römerpark-Museum” in Köngen.     So this time I think we’ll try something different – I think a jaunt  to the German solar capital, Freiburg, would be highly informative, or maybe you’ll catch us cruising on the Zeppelin NT over beautiful Lake Constance in Southern Germany on the lookout for greenroofs…

Zeppelin Overview

So, will you be going?   Finalize  your plans now and hopefully we’ll see you there!

~ Linda V.

Perceptions: Seeing green roofs in Austria

November 18, 2008 at 4:36 am

Like  the majority of our readers/ visitors, I am constantly on the look-out for green roofs. Extensive, intensive, moss-covered, or grass-filled eaves… Every green roof is, for me, a signal of Mother Nature’s pulse. A sign that she hasn’t abandoned us entirely, and will slowly, subtly, reclame our denuded constructions with autotrophic (i.e. self-feeding, from the sun’s energy…)  Life.

I recently moved back to Austria,  one of  the several German-speaking lands of milk and honey. Further to my beloved cheese- and chocolate-dominated diet, this analogy also extends to the fact that I’m now living in the Motherland of extensive green roof technology. Whether driving along the Autobahn, hiking at 2500 m above sea level, or going to work, my hungry eyes are constantly satiated with the sight of green roofs.

Here’s the funny thing, though. When I lived in Reutte in the autumn/ winter of 2005, virtually all the conversations I had with locals about green roofs were met with confusion, curiosity  and disbelief:

“Why would you put plants on the roof?” “Never heard of such a thing..” “They may be big in Germany, but green roofs don’t exist around here..” “Green roofs wouldn’t work here, we get too much snow.” It reminded me presenting the concept of vegetated roofs to someone who’d never heard of it before in North America.. except I’m in Austria, a progressive member of the EU.

Granted, I’m not in Linz, which has been implementing green roof policy and incentives since 1989. I’m 600 km west, in a Tyrolean Alpine village that is covered by snow for 6 months of the year. Deep and persistent snow cover plays an important role to the cultural psyche of this region. World-class skiers grow up here. As far as the locals with which I’ve spoken are concerned, green roofs may exist in Linz or Munich, but they don’t fit in here.

What’s so funny, then? Well, when I returned to the area this past July, my eyes were repeatedly surprised by green roof after green roof. They are, in fact, EVERYWHERE here! Just as I have been pleasantly surprised, many of the locals (who had no idea about green roofs before) universe community now report that they’re seeing green roofs everywhere too.. they’d just never noticed them before.

The experience has been not unlike that familiar experience from back home, of witnessing the lightbulb going on above a newly introduced’s head. The only difference is that here, the green roofs are HERE yet few people notice them (or thought much about them if they had). In some of the cases (see photos), it is hard to imagine how  someone could miss them!


Catholic church in Reutte with green roof walkway

Catholic church in Reutte with green roof walkway


Tourist Information Centre in Reutte with green roof
Tourist Information Centre in Reutte with green roof

This experience has opened my eyes to how green roofs  are perceived. While North American’s figure that Europeans are light-years ahead with regards to social and environmental policy (realistically about  15 years), this doesn’t mean that all Europeans know what green roofs are.

Dare I conclude that, regardless of geography or culture, green roofs may be either new and exciting, or so common that the layman doesn’t notice them.   Is this too much of a generalization?