This Roof Has It All! (Louis Nine House, South Bronx)

It is as if we walked into the cutting edge text book on what is possible on a green roof:  A vertical garden, rain catchment containers for irrigation, multiple seating areas designed for as little as two people and as many as 20, raised beds for ornamental plants, others for herbs and veggies, an outdoor kitchen, a garden shed, a seedling house, subtle night-time lighting, modular shallow sedum-planted containers and beautiful solar panels that double as a shade canopy, put kilowatts back on the grid and that you can see when LOOKING UP from street level.  But this isn’t a text book; it’s all on the roof of the Louis Nine House in the South Bronx.

The Louis Nine House provides an affordable, safe home to young adults, ages 18-25, who have aged out of the foster care system but still require support and services in order to achieve full independence.  This 46-unit new construction building was planned with a green roof, but the funding ran out.  That’s where Ed May and the Parson’s Design-Build program came in.

One project per year is selected for the Masters in Architecture students at Parsons to design AND build in one very busy semester plus a summer.  The design process is quick and collaborative:  They have two days to create schematic designs in pairs, then two more days to revise their design as a group.  The final design is completed within the month of January, leaving this team of Master’s students just six or seven months to turn their plans into reality.  Louis Nine House was a recent benefactor of this incredible program, hence the roof that has it all.

Ed May was one of the students who designed and built this roof.  He is now a professor at Parsons and will be supervising the upcoming project this winter (which is yet to be announced).  He found it very gratifying to be told that the residents of Louis Nine frequently use the roof, either communally or often to have outdoor time alone in this private park-like setting.  However, being a perfectionist, Ed was spending much of his time looking very closely at design details and asking if he could come back with his tool box and do a little fixing up here and there where maybe a corner of a planter didn’t come together just so.

This week we’re heading out to Gowanus, a Brooklyn neighborhood undergoing rapid gentrification now that the toxic Gowanus Canal is a Superfund site and getting cleaned up.  We’ll be close by the canal on a rooftop farm where food is grown in soil but irrigated hydroponically.  More on that in the next post.



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