Rooftop Wheat Prarie
General Contractor: Pat O’Bryan, Bulley & Andrews
Green Roof Designer, Manufacturer, Installer: Molly Meyer, Omni Ecosystems
Landscape Architect: Elizabeth Krasner, Studio Gang Architects
Owners Representative: Len Skiba, Daccord LLC
Wheat Farming & Processing: Tracy Boychuk, The Roof Crop LLC
Chicago’s Amber Waves of Grain
The Chicago Wheat Prairie is a unique, picturesque landscape growing three stories above a bustling Chicago intersection.
The Chicago Wheat Prairie is a complete anomaly in aesthetics and general design. It’s the only rooftop in the city growing amber waves of grain. The golden wheat accented by bright wildflowers offers city dwellers a one-of-a-kind visual splendor. To immerse visitors into the wheat prairie, a room of floor-to-ceiling glass windows was constructed in the middle of the roof, offering incredible views from all angles.
In designing this roof, a team of architects and ecologists sowed a crop of red winter wheat into a 4,700-square-foot, 5-inch rooftop prairie. The grain’s purpose was threefold: creating a singular pastoral aesthetic for the client, one that mirrored the Midwestern landscape; providing wind protection for cover crops and wildflowers also growing in the meadow; and determining the extent to which green roofs could address food security issues in urban landscapes vis-a-vis cereal grain production. The proof-of-concept research conducted at this site resulted in the first-known rooftop wheat harvest, which produced 66 pounds of high-quality whole wheat pastry flour from a hyperlocal source, create employment opportunities along the way, and provided a working model for urban grain production.
With more cities incentivizing green roofs, this project takes important steps in shaping the future of urban landscapes. It lays important groundwork for creating a city where rooftops are no longer passive landscapes but spaces for discovery, productivity and resiliency. Judges praised the project for its interesting mixture of agriculture and ecology.