Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects
Gary Comer Youth Center Green Roof; Chicago, Illinois 

Client:  Gary Comer Youth Center
Architect:  John Ronan Architects
Engineers:  ARUP
Category:  Constructed / Commercial

Located in a South Shore neighborhood challenged by poverty and crime, the Gary Comer Youth Center offers a welcoming space for indoor activity. And now, its 8,160 square foot green roof is pushing activity outdoors and provides the crowning touch to a building recognized for its bold architecture.

The landscape architect worked closely with the architect and donor to develop a vision for a green roof to include both a working flower and vegetable garden, and suggested that the center employ a full-time gardener to enhance educational program development and manage maintenance. The result is a garden used in extremely creative ways for horticultural learning, environmental awareness and for food production. Both reducing climate control costs and providing an outdoor classroom, the green roof is able to withstand enthusiastic children digging for potatoes and carrots with garden tools. Soils 18 to 24 inches deep allow for viable food production, including cabbage, sunflower, lettuce and strawberries. Sharp differences between ground temperatures and those on the roof mean that the rooftop is in a different climate zone and can be utilized throughout the winter. The resulting garden, only two years old, is still evolving.