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Civic Impact

Mapping Toronto's living architecture, one roof at a time

A new guide to Toronto's living architecture helps find local, accessible green walls and roofs.

Many Torontonians have seen them: a living wall, dripping with greenery that thrives on its vertical home. Maybe they’ve even come across a green roof, where they can take in the cityscape surrounded by vegetation. Though growing in popularity, these places are still tough to find, which is where Jonathan Silver comes in.

“I thought it was a small project, and it turned out to be an enormous undertaking,” he says with a laugh.

His map of Toronto’s green roofs, available now online, started off as an attempt to catalogue the city’s publicly accessible living architecture. Beginning with about fifteen entries, the map now collects 27 examples of visible and accessible green roofs and walls, and also includes nearby parks, streetcar and subway lines, and bike routes.

“What [artist] Daniel Rotsztain did was highlight some of the parks between the walls and roofs, which highlights the green spaces between the spaces. It’s showing the green places in Toronto, and how to access them in an environmentally friendly way.”

Silver got the idea after attending a living architecture conference. “It was mostly people from the industry: engineers, architects, landscape architects. Everyone there was on the same page and knew what a green roof was, but a lot of lay people don’t know what they are.” He sees green roofs as having multiple benefits for urbanites. “They engage a multitude of our senses. You can smell them, you can touch them, you can feel their humidity on your skin. You really have to see them to understand why they’re so great, and all these sensory experience help you feel more relaxed. If you’re attentive, you’ll notice that after you go out onto a green roof, they feel better.”

The map also comes with a chance to win a dinner for two at T|Bar. Contestants can snap a picture of a living wall or green roof and post it using the hashtag #LivingArchTOur. Winners will be announced this November.
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