Written by Interface
Far below the towering, architecturally spectacular buildings that dominate Sydney’s city skyline, the very essence of Biophilia is thriving – as locals begin peppering the grey, paved sidewalks with earthy, green bursts of life. And Sydney’s residents can’t seem to get enough.
Drawn back to nature from their high density, inner-city dwellings, more and more Sydneysiders are looking to reconnect with the earth, as well as their communities. As a result, the concept of ‘community gardens’ is growing in popularity rapidly, with 16 having sprung up in recent years, with more in the planning. These picturesque, social pockets of environmental cultivation are all run by locals, who use them to grow herbs, flowers, vegetables and fruit, while fostering rare plants and seeds and reigniting village camaraderie.
Sydney’s community gardens, many of which can be found in the densely populated Alexandria, Waterloo and Surry Hills areas, provide the perfect opportunity to use forgotten pockets of public land more creatively. They offer residents practical ways to reuse materials and are also a supportive environment to learn gardening and grow their own fresh, organic food – all while satisfying the irrefutable inner urge of mankind to reconnect with the natural essences of earth.
Taking Green to New heights
High above the ground, however, the notion of greening the city is taking on a different form. The idea of a ‘green roof ’ is thousands of years old. The Vikings, the earliest Europeans and Native Americans, and the first American western settlers all had grass and sod roofs in common. It is a brilliant architectural solution: A natural heating and cooling system that’s easy to repair and (bonus) feeds livestock. Modern green roofs offer these benefits and more. Green roofs are marvels of biodiversity- enhancing, heat-alleviating, sound insulating, stormwater-reducing beauties in urban eco-systems.
Since 2002, Australia has embraced green roofs in every sector. Melbourne’s City Council House 2 Building set the benchmark for the rest of the country with its six-star Green Star Design certification from the Green Building Council. In Sydney, two centrally located late-1800s ‘Wool Stores’ were restored into a loft metropolis with an amazing 2600m2 garden up on the roof. M Central Residential is a massive but meticulously re-imagined heritage commercial warehouse site that began life during the heyday of Sydney’s wool trade. Built near the docks for ready access to clipper ships (such as the Cutty Sark), the buildings were made for storage; brick on the outside and good timber on the inside.
Architect Dale Jones-Evans retained as much of the original brick and timber as possible when converting the building into apartments and sky homes grounded by six retail spaces. He conceived the roof as an ‘elevated Australian parkland’ of savannah grasses, succulents, and timber boardwalks. All of this, of course, is just a stone’s throw from Sydney’s Darling Harbour where the clipper ships (and later, the steamers) once came and left with the wool that was the country’s economic lifeline in the 1800s. Any green roof, no matter how primitive, is a living, breathing thermal dynamics department. To find one that is beautiful, authentic, and anchored in a country’s national history like the one at M Central, is another thing entirely.