Landscaping the Sky: Green Roofs in the City

It was springtime when I made my first trip to Kingsland Wildflowers, a 22,000 square foot green roof in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, which sits on top of a movie studio. Though only two miles from my home, I would have thought I'd be more aware of its presence. Perhaps, however, it wasn't so apparent given its location; the green roof is positioned in the center of a sewage treatment plant, metal and plastic recycling facility, a biofuel refueling station, and storage—not what I would call typical "destination places" for the average New Yorker.

 A before shot of the Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop before planting. Quite a number of landscape specialists were brought in to do the work on this 22,000 square foot rooftop.

A before shot of the Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop before planting. Quite a number of landscape specialists were brought in to do the work on this 22,000 square foot rooftop.

 A photo of Kingsland Wildflowers in full bloom after it's been fully landscaped and planted. Weeding, watering and upkeep is still necessary, but much of the roof takes care of itself.

A photo of Kingsland Wildflowers in full bloom after it's been fully landscaped and planted. Weeding, watering and upkeep is still necessary, but much of the roof takes care of itself.

However, it's here where I met Marni Majorelle for the first time, a New York-based landscape designer and green roof builder from Alive Structures. She spearheaded the buildout of this green roof, which features native wildflowers and grasses to help support native birds and pollinators—something she is incredibly passionate about.

"I grew up in New York City," she said. "I think that's why I do what I do. I love New York, but I also love nature...A big part of our future and sustainability is in cities, but we can't live without nature...We are fooling ourselves if we think we can live without ecologically active systems all around us."

Though I came at a time when barely a bud was blooming, I had the chance to visit her again later in the season to film an episode of Plant One On Me, my weekly video series on YouTube. This time, I got to see more of the plants, like Penstemon digitalis, commonly known as Foxglove beardtongue and Zizia aptera, heart-leaved meadow parsnip, in bloom. But before the tour, we sat down to discuss how she entered the landscape design profession, why her company expanded beyond green roof design, and some of the work that goes behind making a 22,000 square foot "garden" in the sky. 

Check out the full video and Kingsland tour here and below: