Rooftop Wheat Prairie

Project
Rooftop Wheat Prarie

Location
Chicago, IL

Award Winner
Omni Ecosystems

Project Team

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

The unassuming star of this project was the prolific crop of winter wheat which matured into an edible, harvestable grain. The amber waves created a unique pastoral aesthetic for the client, protected the underlying prairie from wind damage, and tasted delicious when milled into pastry flour and baked into cookies.
— Molly Meyer, Omni Ecosystems
With more than fifty species planted on top of a historic building, our mini prairie functions more as a thriving ecosystem than a green roof, creating food and habitat for birds, butterflies, insects, fungi, and now people.
— Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang
Daccord had the pleasure of working with Omni Ecosystems again on this project, and as with our past experience, they did an excellent job showing responsiveness, quality and most importantly creativity. We congratulate them for this award and a job very well done.
— Len Skiba, Daccord 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.

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