Woodruff Arts Center Plants Its Roof
The Woodruff Arts Center sits in the heart of midtown Atlanta and is surrounded by high rises, which soon will include Trump Towers. To those who work in the area, the Arts Center, which is state-of-the-art from the ground level, isn't quite as pleasant when viewed from higher elevations.
The Woodruff Arts Center sits in the heart of midtown Atlanta and is surrounded by high rises, which
soon will include Trump Towers. To those who work in the area, the Arts Center, which is state-of-the-art from the ground level, isn’t quite as pleasant when viewed from higher elevations.
Enter visionary David Harris, a retired partner of SGR. When Harris gazed down upon the Woodruff Arts Center from his office on the 32nd floor of the Promenade II building across 15th Street, he decided that the Arts Center should present as lovely a view from above as it does from the ground. Familiar with examples of vegetative roofs in other cities, Harris, a member of the Arts Center’s board of trustees, approached the Center and asked if those efforts could be duplicated.
The largest vegetative roof in Atlanta is now the Green- Grid® roof atop the Woodruff Arts Center. It would take a full two years to see the first phase of this project completed.
A vegetative roof is a roof that has an actual vegetation component. A green roof is simply a roof that is considered sustainable.
Harris has performed extensive research on vegetative roofs. The choices and distinctions of greening a roof with plants are quite extensive. For the Arts Center project, Southface was enlisted to perform a study of stormwater and energy savings that a vegetative roof would provide. Personal meetings and contacts with the recommended vendors followed.
Weight, drainage, xeriscaping and, of course, cost all came into play. Since the Woodruff Arts Center is a nonprofit, Harris had to secure the necessary funding through donations without interfering with other fundraising efforts of the Center. This was not an easy task, and it took the determination
to educate potential donors of the broad benefits that a vegetative roof brings. To the mix was added the creative element of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). SCAD’s residence hall for its Atlanta campus is located at the Woodruff Arts Center, and SCAD students were enlisted to develop a pattern for what is arguably the largest piece of living art in the city.
Harris worked with SCAD’s design students, who created a complete four-season plan for the plantings so that the roof will change design and color with the seasons. Therefore, not
only does the rooftop planting contain all the technical details of double drainage trays, sedum (which have high drought tolerance), soil that is a mixture of various components including home-grown organic chicken manure, lightweight materials, an extended roof life of 17 years, and a five- to
seven-percent projected energy reduction — it’s art at the same time, and thus a perfect solution for the Arts Center. SCAD was also enlisted to have documentary filmmaker Peter Svensson create a film memorializing the whole first phase of the project.
What’s next? “Well, the main building,” states Harris. The SCAD students have come up with a design for the rooftop of the largest portion of the Center, where Symphony Hall, Alliance Theater and the administration offices of the Center are located. The title of the design is “The Golden Spiral.”
It just may be that the Woodruff Arts Center will then have to figure out a way for people on the ground to see its latest artistic “acquisitions.”
Author Beth Bond, co-founder of GreenerAtlanta.org, is a freelance writer covering news about green and sustainability issues in Atlanta, and works with SoutheastGreen.com and other publications in the metro area.