Climb the ladder that stretches up from the fifth floor of the Centre for Social Innovation at 720 Bathurst St., and you’ll emerge onto what is currently an empty black tar roof.
But if Torontonians Lauren Pirie and Natalie Boustead have their way, this vacant space will soon be an organic garden, classroom and event space, and will supply fresh produce to a farmers market and a café below.
“The Everything Roof will use art and design to promote sustainability,” says Pirie of this rooftop gardening initiative.
The 28-year-old designer and illustrator has been collaborating with urban gardener Boustead on artsy green initiatives under the label About Face Collective since 2009. When they heard the Centre for Social Innovation was opening up shop in the Annex, they pitched their idea for The Everything Roof, and were enthusiastically accepted as an incubator project at the centre.
According to Pirie and Boustead’s ambitious plan, local artists will build the rooftop garden out of recycled materials.
“We want to give artists the reins: Maybe they’ll build sculptural trellises for vertical gardening,” says Pirie.
Once constructed, the garden will collaborate with Skate4Cancer, a cancer prevention initiative, to teach gardening and cooking classes to youth. There will be a stage built amongst the greenery so that the garden can host events, and the food produced will be sold at a downstairs farmers market and be used in the Annex Lounge Café below.
If it sounds unusual, it won’t be for long. Toronto recently became the first North American city to officially mandate green roofs, with a bylaw that comes into effect this April 30.
The environmental benefits of replacing a black tar roof with a green roof include lower utility bills for the building, a general cooling effect, cleaner air and water, and the provision of an oasis for birds and insects — and, of course, humans — in an otherwise concrete jungle.
“It will be open to the public to just go and hang out,” says Pirie.
The project has so far been granted $75,000 by Live Green Toronto. They’ve also raised $10,000 on the crowd-funding site Indigogo.com and, if everything goes according to plan, will continue to hold events through the spring for a summer build.
Want to get involved? Anyone interested in contributing or volunteering for The Everything Roof should visit Aboutface.com and get in touch.