Elliott Maltby, principal and founder of Thread Collective, a Brooklyn architecture studio that "explores the seams between building, art, and landscape," was one of 4 presenters/panelists at last Thursday's AT Design Meetup. There, rather than addressing how to solve the problems of gardening in a city, Elliott proposed that urban gardening was in itself a solution to the problems inherent in city living....
In exposing the benefits of urban gardens, Elliott began by explaining the 'unexpected' quality of an urban garden, especially a green roof in that they provide a nice jolt to the eye and the mind. Next, Elliott identified how gardens fuel a communal need that many have when living in a large anonymous environment. Whether it's a community garden or a private backyard space, a garden fosters some form of interactivity amongst neighbors. Lastly, Elliott brought to mind the temporal nature of gardens--the garden can slow down time for us as well as remind us of the spectrum of time in their seasonality.
Elliott's firm Thread Collective is working on some green roof projects at the moment, including a condo in Williamsburg, a nursery, and some buildings in a new South African sustainable village and arts complex called Southbank.
Green roofs in particular are a great way to bring gardening and a natural element to the city. Elliott suggests the green grid as the easiest means of success. In addition to being beautiful to behold, green roofs serve some very practical purposes. They counteract the heat island effect (the phenomenon wherein a city's asphalt and concrete retain heat in the summer and increase the air temperature), reduce stormwater runoff (because the roof plants will absorb the rainwater), and actually protect the roofing materials so as to increase their longevity.
If you don't have access to, or authority over, a roof Elliott suggested three ways anyone can achieve sustainable gardening practices:
• rainwater collection
• home composting
• use native plants as much as possible
After hearing these panelists extoll the virtues--for the urban environment, natural environment and the soul--of gardening, it's hard not to want to take the plunge and make it happen!!