Volunteers working at UpGarden
The nation’s first completely public rooftop community garden is set to open imminently. Situated on the top level of the Mercer Street Garage in downtown Seattle, UpGarden will convert up to 30,000 square feet of hardscape parking with plots for organic herbs and flowers. Located a couple blocks north of the Experience Music Project, the new garden will add a new community space from which to watch tourists below.
Designed by landscape architects Kistler Higbee Cahoot, in collaboration with Seattle’s P-Patch, an organization which helps create and manage community gardens in the city, UpGarden is already setting community gardening milestones in terms of community participation and management. However, this cooperative spirit might only be temporary as the garage, built for 1962 World’s Fair, is slated for demolition in the next few years.
The construction of the project posed some technical difficulties, as the weight of soil, especially wet soil, far exceeds that of the cars the aging structure was built to support. To deal with this issue, the designers used shallower planting beds and lighter soils. The garden, occupying the central sloping portion of the garage, uses terracing to manage water flow and to separate plots and different zones for planting. A lawn lined with lavender occupies the center of the garden, ornamented with an Airstream trailer which now functions as a tool shed.
Plan and rendering of UpGarden by Kistler Higbee Cahoot
Once only found in poorer urban neighborhoods, community gardens have made a comeback in middle and upper-class neighborhoods as the organic and local food movements gained steam. Along with this transformation in demographics has come a transformation in means, as the gardens move from being an opportunistic infrastructure taking advantage of empty lots, to a designed and specific type of landscape. As projects like UpGarden continue to grow in number and popularity, they must remember their roots as gardens of, for, and by the people.
The Mercer Street Garage with UpGarden site in red