Southside Soapbox

The Southside Soapbox

Chicago, IL

Award Winner
William McDonough + Partners

Project Team

Architect of Record: Karl Heitman, Heitman Architects Inc
Civil Engineers: William Loftus, Spaceco Inc
Contractor: Adam Miller, Summit Design + Build LLC
Design Architect: Roger Schickedantz, William McDonough + Partners
Greenhouse Manufacturer/Installer: Jeff Warschauer, Nexus
Healthy Material Assessments: Jay Bolus, MBDC
Hydroponic Equipment Provider: Patrik Borenius, Green Automation
Landscape Architect: Keith Demchinski, Norris Design
Renewal Energy Consultant: Matt Herman, Buro Happold
Rooftop Greenhouse Operator: Viraj Puri, Gotham Greens
Solar Tree Vendor: Desmond Wheatley, Envision Solar
Structural and MEP Engineer: Arun Garg, KJWW

William McDonough + Partners’ factory design for Method’s South Side Soapbox honors a positive relationship between people and the natural world. Our introduction of Method to Gotham Greens has resulted in a building like a tree or even an orchard. It produces oxygen, absorbs carbon, purifies water, produces food and transforms solar energy. It is wonderful to see businesses collaborating to help people have beautifully clean, healthy places to live, work and even grow food!
— William McDonough, William McDonough + Partners

A Symbol of A Community’s Revival

Method Home's new manufacturing facility, located in the historic Pullman neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, provides a host structure for the Gotham Greens greenhouse on its roof. The first factory to open on the south side in nearly 30 years, the building serves as a symbol of the area's revival, bringing needed jobs to the community.

The building and landscape achieved a LEED Platinum rating for the use of renewable energy, including an on-site wind turbine, management of stormwater, incorporation of sustainably sourced building materials, and contribution to a livable community.

Method and Gotham Greens came together as a result of a joint goal to envision the “factory of the future”. That vision included a large rooftop greenhouse, defining the aesthetic of the building and introducing the concept of a "clean factory." Once a design sketch was proposed, Method found a partner in Gotham Greens, who built and operate the greenhouse.

Gotham Green's 75,000 ft2 rooftop greenhouse was the largest in the world at the time of construction and overlooks a green canopy over the entryway. The urban greenhouse was incorporated with the purpose of creating buildings modeled on natural processes through industrial agriculture. Located in a food desert, Gotham Greens further supports the local community by making regular donations to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Judges praised this project’s impressive approach to roof-based agriculture and contextual design. They also spoke highly of the project’s excellent example of living architecture integrated into a larger high-performance building and site.

Rooftop Wheat Prairie

Rooftop Wheat Prarie

Chicago, IL

Award Winner
Omni Ecosystems

Project Team

General Contractor: Bulley & Andrews
Green Roof Designer, Manufacturer, Installer: Omni Ecosystems
Landscape Architect: Studio Gang Architects
Owners Representative: Daccord LLC
Wheat Farming & Processing: 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.


1516 West Carroll Ave Roof Farm

1516 West Carroll Ave Roof Farm

Chicago, IL

Award Winner
Omni Ecosystems

Project Team

Architect: Lynsey Sorrell, Perimeter Architects
Farm Marketing & Operations: Tracy Boychuk, The Roof Crop LLC
General Contractor: Kirk Bacastow, LG Construction
Green Roof Designer, Manufacturer, & Installer: Molly Meyer, Omni Ecosystems
Owners Representative: Paul Clausen, Clausen Management Services
Roofer: Andy Moglieniki, AB Edwards

The roof farm epitomizes Omni’s mission to create resilient landscapes that are beautiful and that create social and ecological solutions. Serving as a hands-on classroom, hyper-local food source, native pollinator pathway, and peaceful workplace respite, the rooftop farm elevates the possibilities of living infrastructure systems.
— Molly Meyer, Omni Ecosystems
I’ve marveled watching this rooftop grow— not only as an ecosystem, with a more impressive array of crops establishing every year— but as a space for fellowship and community.
— Tracy Boychuk, The Roof Crop
1516 West Carroll represents the best of what Perimeter Architects strive for in every project: innovation, collaboration, great design and clever solutions. The roof system is so light and flexible, engineering the roof was far less complex than with other systems on the market but the results are incomparable.
— Lynsey Sorrell, Perimeter Architects

A Pioneer In Chicago Urban Agriculture

The Commercial Rooftop Farm is a fully-functioning, commercial-scale rooftop farm located on the West Side of Chicago. The roof produces an impressive yield of 44 different crops in more than 100 varieties including green beans, potatoes, radishes, turnips and raspberries. Every week during harvest season, produce from the roof is picked, processed and packaged on-site before it’s sold to nearby restaurants and consumers, and served in locally-sourced dishes.

The site features four roofs, three of which are farmed commercially, and one 1,200-square-foot rooftop lawn used for observation and research. The food meadow is supported by an exceptionally lightweight substrate ranging in depth from 4 to 8 inches. The roof is a polyculture system, combining perennials and food crops to establish a healthy nutrient cycle and generate bountiful harvests. Perennial cover crops, many of which are edible, create a stable and established ecosystem. Seasonal seedling crops, including tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, are added to diversify the rooftop menu.

The Carroll project is laying the groundwork and providing crucial research for these future rooftop farming projects, making it a pioneer in urban agriculture in Chicago. The building below the commercial rooftop farm houses three education-focused non profits. Two of these are after-school programs which incorporate the farm into much of their programming, teaching lessons in ecology, biology and food production and using the green roof as their classroom. Urban youth with little to no knowledge of agriculture are provided invaluable exposure to a fully-functioning farm. Select students who wish to continue their education are offered summer employment with the green-roof company. The third organization is a coalition of Chicago chefs who create food and nutrition programming for local schools. Rooftop produce is occasionally used in their classroom demonstrations and lessons, and the farm collaborates with this group

Fruits, veggies and florals harvested from the farm are purchased by nearby food cooperatives, consumers and restaurants which use them in locally-sourced dishes. The farm grows more than 100 varieties of crops including peppers, raspberries, melons, cucumbers, kales, apples and more. Harvests are conducted weekly, making the roof a viable and reliable source of hyperlocal food. Judges praised the project for its integration of urban living and agriculture as well as its array and diversity of food production.