As the UW Master Plan unfolds on campus, transforming the physical nature of the University of Wisconsin over the next two decades, we pause to make a small observation.
The UW could use a few roof gardens.
This is not a call for adding the Hanging Gardens of Babylon to the campus landscape. It is merely recognition that the flat gravel-covered roofs of many structures on campus represent, in an increasingly dense structural environment, a gaping inefficiency. As green space is swallowed up by new construction, we call for better utilization of outdoor roof space in future buildings and appropriate renovations of existing roof space conducive to such use.
Certainly, the creation of a few roof gardens would require an initial financial outlay to enhance safety, introduce foliage and make the spaces suitable for student use. The implementation of the Master Plan represents a unique opportunity, however, to incorporate such costs into a long-term process. Incorporating structural prerequisites from the beginning would help to facilitate the new vision.
Looking around campus, potential opportunities for development present themselves atop portions of Chemistry, Steenbock, Helen C. White and Chadbourne Hall — which actually allowed access to its roof for sunbathing in earlier decades. Rooftop gardens would inject additional greenspace into the heart of campus, create valuable open space and open new vistas on campus life. Sculptural and other artistic elements could also enliven the new spaces.
As a suggestion, it's admittedly tangential. It's not of the highest necessity when arranging campus priorities. But if willing donors can be found as the UW Master Plan unfolds, we hope the Administration considers taking a few small steps toward a unique addition to the future face of campus.