Outdoor Living

Bringing the Outside “Up”: Landscaping Reaches New Heights



So, I thought I was finished with my “outside” posts for the year, but I’ve been seeing lots of articles on green roofs, living walls and sky-high gardens recently. In the past, we’ve talked about bringing the outside “in.” Today, I’d like to chat about bringing the outside, “up.”


Green Roofs

One of the earliest recorded examples of a green roof is the historic Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Constructed in 500 BC, the gardens used an elaborate irrigation system  featuring a waterproof layer of tar and reeds to create a terraced garden paradise outside of modern-day Baghdad.


This hand-colored engraving, probably made in the 19th century after the first excavations in the Assyrian capitals, depicts the fabled Hanging Gardens, with the Tower of Babel in the background.


Centuries later, rooftops rife with vegetation were used as a method to insulate primitive homes, such as the traditional sod roofs of Scandinavia. These roofs consisted of a layer of birch bark covered in sod over sloping wooden boards. Unfortunately these green roofs were neither waterproof, nor impervious to keeping out unwanted burrowing critters (yikes!).

Today’s modern green roof, is created by layering specially made substrate over a drainage system that can absorb water to allow the plants to grow but can drain away any excess in order to stop the roof from becoming waterlogged. The vegetation is then added on top and grows into a substrate to produce a mat of plants covering the top of the house. (Source: Sky Garden).

Okay, enough with the science lesson, let’s take a look at some gorgeous green roofs, some spectacular sky high gardens and a few fabulous living walls.


Architecture firm el dorado Inc., designed a modern house that’s built into a sloped, urban site in the Westside neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri. The house’s U-shaped plan encloses terraced gardens and a sunken entry courtyard. Photos by Mike Sinclair


New York-based Marc Thorpe Design created this home set in the Hollywood Hills and topped with a massive green roof. The residence is completely self-sustaining thanks to solar power, a rainwater collection system and a composting system.


Greenery is visible or accessible from every floor of Meera Sky Garden House, a four-story private residence built by architect Guz Wilkinson on Sentosa, an island in Singapore. The building is constructed with roof gardens on each level and combines glass and solid walls to provide privacy while maximizing cross ventilation, thereby reducing the need for air-conditioning.

Photo by Patrick Bingham-Hall | Architectural Digest


Robert Konieczny of architecture firm KWK Promes devised this unique residence for an art collector in Poland. The home is accessed through a covered driveway, which wraps around to the elevated living quarters. The entire structure features a green roof, allowing it to blend seamlessly with the landscape when viewed from above. I can think of a few kids who would love to sled down this roof when it’s covered with snow!

Photo by Juliuscz Sokolowski | Architectural Digest


The Spiral Garden House designed by Japanese architecture firm Ryuichi Ashizawa features a creative green roof that because of it’s spiral design allows a variety of plants to grow by placing them in various directions and heights according to their need for sunshine and humidity. In addition, the rainwater spirals through the roof gradually descending to a reservoir. Water from this reservoir is used to cool the house in summer.

Via Homecrux


Brazilian architecture firm Studio MK27 designed this contemporary solar-powered holiday retreat topped with a grassy green roof, skylights and solar panels outside São Paulo, Brazil. And what about that wall? It’s like an undulating ribbon wrapping around the building. So cool!

Photo by Fernando Guerra | Inhabitat


Designed for a remote site in the valley of Nayón, Ecuador, by Estudio Felipe Escudero, this contemporary home combines the the solidity of concrete with a curved, organic form. The low, single-story residence is topped with an expansive green roof that intends to make the architecture blend into its lush surroundings. On a lighter note, this home kinda reminds me of a high heel; a contemporary version of the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. 😉

Aside from its stark and stylish modern choices, this Beverly Hills house by Walker Workshop is built with an upside down program. Instead of ascending to the houses’ private spaces, bedrooms are hidden in the hillside and covered with a roof that grows edible herbs.

Photo by Joe Fletcher


Photo by Joe Fletcher


This guest house designed by Gluck+ integrates perfectly into the Rocky Mountains. Planes of ‘roof meadow’ making the house practically invisible from the road.



Stanley Hart White, (brother of E.B. White, author of “Charlotte’s Web”), a professor of Landscape and Architecture at the University of Illinois from 1922 until 1959, developed and patented “botanical bricks” and is considered the inventor of the green wall. The master of this technique, however, is the French Patrick Blanc, who consistently developed the original concept from 1937 and brought it to perfection with his own patented process.

Green walls help to beautify our cities by softening urban facades and serve the more practical purpose of producing more oxygen and cleaning the air.

Also referred to as “vertical gardens,” green walls can be created indoors, as well as on the exterior of buildings. Since studies have shown that being in close proximity to plants can create a sense of calm, rooms with green walls can have an almost therapeutic effect.

All of these green walls are breathtaking living works of art!

Plaggenmeier | Photo by jimfbleak



The lobby of the 1Hotel Brooklyn Bridge


Marilyn Monroe, the queen of Andy Warhol’s pop art, goes green! Made entirely of plants, Marilyn comes to life on a building façade.

With Kinetic Green Canvas—developed collaboratively by Green Studios, the Beirut-based landscape and technology firm, and BADRx, a branch of the international design house Built by Associative Data—green walls can come to life in a completely new way. The canvas, consisting of rotating cubes covered in Green Studios’ hydroponic skin and plant life, transforms building exteriors into verdant, changing art installations.


The Bosco Verticale towers, a skyscraper composed of planted balconies that reach into Milan’s sky. Winning the International Highrise Award award, these forested towers, designed by Stefano Boeri, were cited as a powerful example of the symbiosis possible between architecture and nature—representative of a great possibility for new developments in high-density areas.





Bogotá, Colombia, boasts the world’s largest vertical garden on the Santalaia, a multi-family residential building, covering 33,550 square feet and stretching nine stories above ground. Created by biologist and botanist Ignacio Solano of Paisajismo Urbano, in collaboration with green roof design firm Groncol, the vertical garden project features over 115,000 plants of 10 different species.

I especially love the gardens on the balconies of high rise condo or apartment buildings! If you enjoy gardening but don’t think you have the space, here’s the answer.

Progetto CMR | Archello

Each apartment in this building has its own little tropical getaway!

 Vincent Callebaut | Architectural Digest

This DNA-inspired residential building in Taiwan, boasts 23,000 trees along its twisting exterior.


Rooftop Gardens

My dream space! I would love to live in a high rise with a fabulous rooftop garden like one of these. City dwellers have been taking advantage of rooftops for generations; creating little garden oases in the midst of their urban jungles. More than just making use of unused or underused space, rooftop gardens can provide privacy and are environmentally friendly. There is also usually good sun exposure, and you can rest assured no deer or rabbits will be around to eat your plants and flowers.



Chicago’s most famous rooftop garden sits atop City Hall, an 11-story office building in the Loop. First planted in 2000, the City Hall rooftop garden was conceived as a demonstration project – part of the City’s Urban Heat Island Initiative – to test the benefits of green roofs and how they affect temperature and air quality. The garden consists of 20,000 plants of more than 150 species, including shrubs, vines and two trees. The plants were selected for their ability to thrive in the conditions on the roof, which is exposed to the sun and can be windy and arid. Most are prairie plants native to the Chicago region. (Source: Chicago).

So what do you think of green roofs, living walls and rooftop gardens? Are you game for green and taking it sky high? Landscape design is an integral part of home design, and we can help guide that part of the process, too. Give us a call at 314.395.1114 or CLICK HERE to send us an email.

We’re back running full speed at Marcia Moore Design but if you’d still prefer to work virtually, we understand and can do that, too. Whatever works best for you and makes you the most comfortable is great with us.

Stay safe and healthy,

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