Toronto City Hall’s green roof is worth the climb

TorontoCityHallWith all the jackhammers and construction barriers at Nathan Phillips Square now, you might have missed seeing the new City Hall Podium Green Roof – especially as there’s no signage at the bottom of the ramp to direct you up to the podium for a visit.

Too bad. Because the green roof is worth the small detour.

Where once there were over 3,250 sq. m. (35,000 sq. ft.) of glaring white concrete, now there’s an urban park.

The rooftop plantings have settled in since the official opening in May 2010.

Best intentions aside, I wasn’t among the 22,000 people who got a first look during May’s Open Doors Toronto. My first viewing was only a few weeks ago. Although the rooftop terrain remains flat, albeit textural, the result is impressive.

Feather reed grass (Calamagrostis) ripples like water in the breeze.

As a young copywriter working kittycorner from here at Simpson’s – as The Bay then was – I used to spend many a sunny lunch hour on the postage stamps of grass beside Nathan Phillips Square. I’d have loved a place like this, and hope that more people come to discover this pleasant oasis.

Benches offer unique views of Old City Hall and downtown skyscrapers

Apropos to the times, the green roof and overall city hall revitalization scheme were among the many expenditures originally opposed by Toronto’s incoming mayor elect, Mr. Ford. We’ll wait to see what happens after his December 1st swearing in.

I’ll say nothing of politics here. I will say, though, that I wish it were as easy to find a residential green roof installer – for small homes like mine; I have just the roof for one – as to find one experienced with commercial, institutional and large condo buildings. Now that all new construction in Toronto (over a certain size) is compelled by bylaw to include a green roof, this green industry will boom.

Plantings are designed for seasonal change, with a strong base of sedums

For more about the largest publicly accessible green roof in Toronto, perhaps Canada, check out this profile from But go have a look for yourself. Bring your thermos.


  1. I love to see this! I often "plant gardens in my head" when traveling amongst the pavement and concrete. This is so hopeful and beautiful. Now this space not only functions but lives and breathes for everyone.

  2. That is just wonderful. I've bookmarked this ready for OOTS next month. Give me a nudge please if I forget to include it 😉

  3. It is just awesome. I know this garden is still far away from the concept, but it reminds me of the hanging gardens of Semiramis :-)anyway, hope to see more such projects in our city soon

  4. I don't mean to spam, but if you need a residential green roof installer, we at Green Garage ( would be happy to discuss your roof! Our focus is on smaller-scale green roofs … i.e., residential-sized.


  5. I love that people get to interact with the green roof. Improving insulation, lowering bills, and reducing the Urban Heat Island effect is all great, but what a waste of beauty to only get to see it from afar (or hardly at all, if it is your roof and you are under it). The fact that the roof is accessible to the public is even more fantastic and so smart. I don't know that it would take the place of parks, but in dense cities, any public greenery is greatly appreciated. I hope you're right that the industry will boom.

    Barbara Roost |

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