Studio Gang’s Rooftop Wheat Field Wins ILASLA Merit Award

April 16, 2018

Our living roof, a project with Omni Ecosystems, features a variety of native species including wildflowers, shrubs, grasses, and trees. We used winter wheat as a cover crop to help the prairie propagate, and it flourished into a vast rooftop wheat field. In collaboration with Omni and its sister entity the Roof Crop, along with Urban Habitat Chicago and Baker Miller, the wheat was harvested by hand, threshed, and milled into more than sixty pounds of high-grade pastry flour. The first-known rooftop wheat harvest, it demonstrated that green roofs can support more than just vegetables; they can sustain one of the most important staple foods in the world.

Wheat has been a cornerstone crop for major civilizations throughout the centuries, and still today, wheat consumption in the United States exceeds that of any other food staple. Yet, the versatile, high-calorie food and fuel source is often neglected from urban agricultural discourse. Productive green roof systems in particular center on vegetable and herb production, while the potential to cultivate, harvest, and process cereal and oil crops is largely unknown. Exploring the overlooked capabilities of green roof agriculture, Studio Gang and Omni pursued a unique opportunity to investigate the quality and feasibility of green roof grain production. This proof-of-concept research project provided valuable data regarding green roof grain production, proving the viability of rooftop wheat production.

The project was honored with a 2018 Merit Award for Architectural Research from the Illinois chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

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Photo: Hannah Hoggatt Photography