History Of Rooftop Gardens

History of Rooftop Gardens

The history of rooftop gardens dates back to thousands of years ago. At first, rooftop gardens were built purely for aesthetic purposes. Every day that passes, people are looking forward to making the world more sustainable. They are coming up with innovative ideas, one of them being setting up rooftop gardens on their buildings. The beauty of a garden is immeasurable. The garden looks even more appealing when placed on the roof of a building

Below are some examples of ancient rooftop gardens:

The ziggurats of Mesopotamia

The ziggurats of MesopotamiaImage: Archeyes

Built between 4000BC -6000BC, the famous gardens were made of stone structures. Stairs were used for access. There were varieties of trees that provided a good resting place for visitors, as there were no interior rooms on the tier. An example of a ziggurat rooftop garden is located in Nanna.

The villas of the Mysteries

The villas of the Mysteries - rooftop gardenImage: Wikipedia

The city of Pompeii was discovered accidentally, in 1749. Before that, not much was known about Roman life. The city was covered with ash and pumice as a result of the eruption of mountain Vesuvius. From this discovery, archeologists discovered that rooftop gardens were so crucial to Romans. A rooftop garden was found in the northwest gate of Pompeii. The rooftop garden acted as a social gathering place and a living room.

Palazzo Piccolomini, Italy

History of Rooftop GardensImage: TravelingInTuscany

Considered as a town planning town example in Europe, Palazzo Piccolomini was a private residence for Pope Pius 2. The most innovative aspect of the piece was the introduction of a central square, the piazza, where people would assemble and bask at the summer sun. The piazza was surrounded by a cathedral and a town hall. In 1463, the pope commissioned the design of a palazzo for the residence. In the palazzo, manicured parterres and sculpted trees were planted.

The hanging gardens of Babylon

The hanging gardens of BabylonImage: Britannica

The hanging gardens of Babylon are probably the first example of a garden on the top part of a building. They are also known as the hanging gardens of Semiramis. The gardens were built by King Nebuchadnezzar 1 for his wife, and they had a 400ft2 for the base. The vegetation hanged above the walls to the ground level; hence the name is hanging gardens. The hanging gardens of Babylon were built on stone roofs and pillar. Tar was used as a waterproof material.  The idea for creating the gardens was for aesthetical purposes.  Terraces, which took the design of mountains, were filled with varieties of flowers and trees. The plan was not only appealing to the eyes; it also made it easier to irrigate the gardens.

Rooftop gardens in specific countries


In the 1900s, the idea of rooftop gardening was embraced in Germany. The idea was further catalyzed in 1970, as a result of stormwater problems.  In the 1980s, modern methods of cultivation were a common phenomenon in the country, something that had not been established in any other part of the world. Germany was the first country to develop rooftop gardens. When the oil crisis was at its peak in the 1970s, Germany started to investigate the contribution of rooftop gardens to energy conservation. In the late 1980s, thousands of square meters of rooftop gardens were designed.  At first, they were erected even on buildings that could hardly support them, raising quality issues. Afterward, the art was perfected to the best quality. Germany boasts of having the highest number of rooftop gardens in the world, and the most advanced knowledge concerning them.

United States of America

The most popular garden was built-in the Rockefeller center, New York, in the mid-1930. The center boasts of 5 gardens, set on the 7th floor of the building. The gardens are not open to the public. However, one can book a private stay there. The Madison square garden in New York City was designed to accommodate more than 400 people. The garden was refurbished in 1986, and up to date, it remains an aesthetic piece purely. It covers the entire block between Madison and Fourth Avenues. The paradise garden took a village setting. It had a windmill, two cows, a pond, a waterfall, and a milkmaid. Afterward, wealthy people embraced the idea of setting up rooftop gardens. Penthouses with terraces were a common sight in many states.  So far, New York City has made several attempts to make more rooftop gardens for a better environment. Weyerhaeuser corporate headquarters have a rooftop garden, completed in 1971. The most extensive garden to be constructed in New York City was constructed in Manhattan. Its construction took off in 2008 and came into completion in 2009. The garden is covered with native plants and its expected lifetime is 50 years


Over the past ten years, rooftop gardening has gained a lot of popularity in Australia. In 2002, the freshwater place residential tower was made in Melbourne.

In 2010, the largest rooftop garden in the country, the Victorian desalination project, was announced. The project was to host over 98000 varieties of indigenous plants from Australia. In the late2000s, following problems with stormwater, business groups, and city councils have increasingly been promoting the idea of rooftop gardening.

Advancement of Rooftop Gardening

Continuous research has led to the improvement of rooftop gardening.  In modern days, the gardens have many functions, like energy conservation and the production of food.  Many countries are embracing the idea of rooftop gardening. Some types of rooftop gardens include:

Intensive rooftop gardens

They are intensive rooftop gardens and can be grown many kinds of plants. The planting medium is usually profound. However, the type of plants on the garden dictates the level of maintenance. They are suitable for buildings with high load capacity. Most of these gardens are found in commercial centers, where there is a lot of space. Walkways are constructed around the gardens. They require structures that can bear heavy load since they are so heavy.

Extensive rooftop gardens

The planting medium is not as deep. Drought tolerant plants are the best option for this type since their roots don’t go deep. They require little maintenance compared to intensive rooftop gardens.  Most of them are owned by single-unit family dwellers who do not have a lot of space.

Container gardens

Container gardening is a good option for people with limited space. Here, a variety of vegetables, herbs, and flowers can be grown. Generally, larger plants will require larger containers. Drainage holes are essential otherwise;, the planting medium may become waterlogged, eventually causing the death of the plants. The quality of containers should be good for maximum yields.

Benefits of Rooftop Gardens

Rooftop gardens have several advantages. In ancient times, the gardens were being used for aesthetic purposes. However, people are still discovering the benefits of them, especially in this era of industrialization. Apart from adding beauty to buildings, other benefits of rooftop gardens include:

  • Increased property value to the building in which they are set up on
  • Are the gardens good sources of food to the urban dwellers with limited spaces for backyards?
  • They reduce stormwater runoff; excess water runoff on the rooftop of a building may cause leakage.
  • They act as insulators, protecting the building from too much heat or cold. The insulation contributes to less energy consumption.
  • They provide a functional area for relaxation, contributing to individuals overall wellbeing
  • The gardens act as sound insulators

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