Amsterdam City Hall roof planted

Leora Rosner

Due to the tenacity of one person a seed was planted and nurtured until it grew and began to blossom. The story of planting the roof of the City Hall of Amsterdam (the Stopera) began in April of 2007 when a letter was sent to Mayor Cohen. In that letter was a list of facts on greening roofs, their positive effect on the urban environment and should city hall plant its’ roof it would function as an example for the entire city. A reply was promised within 4 weeks. It took 6 weeks and a telephone call to hear an update. There was interest, the letter to the mayor had been forwarded to interested parties and city hall was abuzz with the possibility of greening their roof. Again there was a promise to connect within a few weeks and again a call had to be made to get a progress report. They said they needed a report on the structural stability of the roof.
The letter writer offered to search and first spoke to the architects of the Stopera (Cees Dam and Wilhelm Holzbauer) about the report. They didn’t have it and the search continued through every department of city hall. Nearly 2 years later in October of 2008 a report came out called “A red-green coalition provides red-green roofs, a proposal by city council members Burke, Geurts, Bos and Willemse to stimulate green roofs in Amsterdam beginning with city hall as an example to Amsterdam. The letter writer spotted a small article about it in the newspaper and called Burke in order to possibly set up an appointment to get the roof planted sooner. That letter writer never heard another thing until it was announced in 2010 that, indeed, a 1700 m2 section of the roof was to be planted. The official opening was held on the 15th of September of this year (2011) by Alderman Ossel and urban ecologist Remco Daalder.
As you can see in the photos it’s doing very well. There is a mix of succulents, grasses and wild (flowering) plants, which also provides a safe haven and pollination heaven for bees. Those who have a view of the planted roof from their offices are thrilled. Instead of looking at a gravel covered roof they now see a living green roof. One can only imagine how many butterflies, ladybugs, birds and bees they see on any given day.
This writer is thrilled about the roof. The down side is that it took nearly five years to get it done. If we are going to green cities and cool them down we must cut the time it takes to accomplish greening a roof, cut the red tape, work much faster, insure that there will be roof planting subsidies every year, pass laws obligating building corporations and large companies to plant as well as an obligatory architectural design standard including green roofs and other sustainable solutions.

In keeping with current events around the globe I will venture forward on the stage of social change and say that we, the 99%, who want positive change including a sustainable environment can achieve this by being active, vocal and begin planting our rooftops. I will even go so far as to state even if the rules don’t apply or won’t allow it, just go ahead and do it. The more planted roofs there are the better the urban environment and our policy makers will take notice and finally wake up. Let’s get to work!

Photos: © Leora Rosner