Rooftop Culture & Sky Gardening


Given the shift from 6 to 9 billion people expected by 2050, and with an even greater proportion of peeps living in cities by then, sustainability will inevitably be interwoven with our urban skies. This one’s for the Bird-people.

Greening Rooftops
Whether called eco-roofs, Rooftop Gardens, vegetated Rooftops, or Sky Gardens, the roofgarden concept is basically a lightweight engineered roofing system which enables the growth of vegetation on conventional rooftops. Benefits include protection for the underlying roof structure, heat insulation for the builkding, absorbing and retaining a significant amount of rainwater, natural cooling and air filtering, greating growing area for plants and the sheer relaxy pleasure of being on a plant covered roof. These effects are real – in response to severe ‘urban heat island’ effects from urban build-up, Tokyo has recently adopted new city regulations that require buildings of a certain size to include a green roof to maximise the cooling benefit of vegetation.

Greening Gotham ( is a particularly ambitious green rooftop project, envisioning the rooftops of New York City transformed from a barren landscape into a living network of meadows and gardens. Quite nice roll-over graphics let web-visitors transform the NY skyscape, and there’s an abundance of info for adapting roofs to include vegetation, although Greenroofs 101 ( is probably the best online resource for those wanting to adapt a roof. ( see also )

Rooftop Films
Melbourne seems to have festivals for just about everything – coffee, chilli, flowers, splintered musical genres, films of any country, even scarves – but is sadly without it’s own rooftop film festival. (( thankfully that’s been rectified in 2008 ))- In Brooklyn however – pitching ‘underground Movies high above the ground’ – Rooftop Films have been promoting and screening short films on rooftops for the last few years. Outdoor films and dusky skylines? Yes, pleez~!

DIY Aerial Photography

Well, you know, because you want to play up there too. 3 options :
1.Webcams – Google em, they fill the skies. Eg this live view from the highest(?) point in Melbourne –
2. Crapcams – try for PDF instructions on how to attach and control an old camera of yours on a kite~!
3. Radiocams – Get a cheap wireless camera – they’re tiny and can be dangled with fishing line over buildings or off bridges, and send a quite decent video signal to a receiver which can be plugged into a mini DV camera for recording.

Sky Power
German documentary maker Dirk Gion, travelled across Australia last year on a large skateboard with a kite attached. His site ( ) has plenty of photos and pix, and could no doubt trigger other ideas about playing with wind.

The Sky Orchestra
Check out ( ) this crazy research project that explores ‘how one can perceive an artistic experience while asleep’. To do this seven hot air balloons with speakers attached flew over the rooftops of homes in the UK just before dawn, playing classical music specially composed for the dreamstate by renowned UK composers. Citizens were letterboxed and surveyed later about the effect on their dreams. Photos, research info and music available at the site.

More Sky Power
There’s a 500-kilometre long barrier that separates Israelis and Palestinians, and a much longer history of complex tensions. In an effort to draw attention to a desire for peace, the 10,000 Kites Project ( ) hopes to have 10,000 kites flying on May 20, 2005 on either side of the fence. Organisers believe that the mutual artistic creations between Israelis and Palestinians provide a tremendous vehicle for breaking down those barriers that have kept these people at a psychological distance, even though they are living in the same part of the world.

Even More Sky Power
Skysails ( ) is a hi-tech sail company that attaches giant sails to ships – except the sails are high above the clouds. The idea is to harness the winds higher above the ocean with an inflatable aerofoil – a kite designed to fly at a height of 100 to 500 metres, towing the ship on a cable fastened to the hull. Apparently at 500 metres, winds are often stronger and less variable than at sea level and fuel costs for ships using the sail have been halved – which is significant for a 50,000 tonne cargo ship running a diesel engine.

(( See also sky noise polaroids, a short film made on rooftops around the world ))

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