The Flat

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words Johanna Agerman

Plough lines in metal decorate the rooftop of a former Holiday Inn in downtown Los Angeles. The building, from 1967, is now a residential development called The Flat and the plough lines are a way of bringing some greenery into the residents' lives and some fresh produce for the restaurant on the ground floor.

This innovative roof garden concept is the brainchild of architect Alexis Rochas, who teaches at local architecture school Sci-Arc. "We were interested in trying alternative environmental ideas for making this roof green," says Rochas. Several air conditioning units also had to be negotiated. "There was a whole bunch of machines up there already, so we let the garden hover on top of it," Rochas says, explaining the roof's hill-like metal landscape.

The plant life is cultivated in narrow steel channels, which add up to a total growing area of 1,500sq ft, all dedicated to edible plants. "We just finished planting the spring collection," says Rochas, "and it's getting pretty green up there."

Each channel contains soil suited to the type of species planted, and the galvanised sheet steel reflects light onto the plants. "We picked metal not so much for the sake of the material but in order to use as little as possible," says Rochas, who also worked out the automatic irrigation system that uses 80% rain water.

Rochas predicts that more and more urban public space will be turned over to growing food. "These areas aren't only used for recreation anymore, but for reproduction," he says.

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