Rooftop Gardens of Wuhou District, Chengdu

Wuhou Temple Street is a busy commercial area that features the historic Wuhou temple as its central attraction. It is also home to a concentration of commercial activity for the local Tibetan population who are selling various articles including clothing, medicine, media and perhaps most frequently, Buddhist miscellany including small statuary and thankas, the elaborate scroll paintings depicting various Buddhist scenes, symbols or deities.

One thing I particularly like about this area is the use of rooftop gardens to create green space within a very dense urban corridor. These rooftop gardens give the appearance that the city is nestled into the humid forests that predated it and contribute an incredible sense of integration with the landscape, in spite of the 14+ million people that call Chengdu home. One can imagine the buildings sprouting from the very asphalt and lofting the previous landscape up some arbitrary number of floors. The rooftop gardens seem to be spilling over the edge of the buildings, subsisting on their obscured interiors and threatening to overtake the orthogonal logic of their plantings. Up close, or rather, from the perspective of the rooftop, these are in reality very well maintained gardens, quite independent of their buildings, that create privacy, seating, and shade allowing the buildings’’ inhabitants to step away from work without venturing into the continuous river of sightseers. In that regard it seems to function like a type of retreat, an undulating natural fortress against the intruding tourists, taxis, bikes, lights and jumbled noise below.

From a practical standpoint, I hope that they make a small dent in the emissions and exhalations. Certainly the evaporation and shade they produce creates a natural cooling effect in a place where air conditioners are often run at purely symbolic levels. And it is not great stretch to imagine the incremental increase in the collective sense of peace these rooftop gardens create for their users. Conversely, if you are  one of those unlucky enough to inhabit the pedestrian sphere, they offer a more restful plane towards which to aspire.