moma rooftop garden

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Case study on the landscape architecture of the rooftop garden at the Museum Of Modern Arts



Presented by: Anapayini S Bedare Keerthi S 8th sem B sec R.V.S.A

Project Facts

Project Name

Museum Of Modern Arts roof garden. Manhattan, New York Yoshio Taniguchi Ken Smith (KSLA) December 2002, January 2004, May 2005 North Roof: 10,200 square feet South Roof: 7,200 square feet Museum Tower condominium, urban high-rise buildings around and the Central Park which is just a few blocks north of the tower. Inaccessible urban viewing garden for the neighboring Midtown high-rise community. MOMA

Other high-rise buildings



Landscape Architect

Museum Tower

Date Designed/Planned/Completed



Program Elements

Project Background & History

Decorative rooftop Inaccessible, urban viewing garden and art installation. Design consideration - weight restrictions of only 25 pounds per square foot, zero tolerance for irrigation, no elements above three feet in height, and low budget. Use the already purchased black and white gravel. History - The original 1939 museum building also had a rooftop design element that could be read only from above and this tradition was continued at the temporary MoMA Queens, which had roof graphics visible from the elevated subway.

Work to be looked at and not walked through.

Design Concepts & Process

Rejected design scheme Field of spinning lawn flowers.

Initial design scheme featuring daisy flower as an icon.

Genesis Of Project

Design Inspiration from the Japanese Zen Garden. Islands and lakes smaller than in nature. Trees bonsai-ed. Scale distortion more than the artificial rocks that are stereotypical of Japanese gardens. Simplicity and lack/void of plantation. Dry garden. Illusion of water, raked sand, rippling water.

Operating on different levels gives complexity. Graphic garden. Islands and lakes are very small compared to nature and small shrubs are put as trees but when viewed from far distance the whole composition seems bigger because it is viewed as a whole and there is scale distortion. The little shrubs and the rocks that are stereotypical of the Zen gardens give this kind of scale distortion to the composition.

Design Concept

The notion of simulated nature and the simulation strategies and theories of camouflage were used to generate the roof garden forms. Four basic strategies Imitation, Deception, Decoy, Confusion.

1.Imitation blend with the surrounding environment. subject indistinguishable in the setting. Shape of skylights, vents & elevator shafts on top the building minimalist geometry. 2.Deception change the appearance of a subject resemblance of innocuous nature Central park ( curvilinear forms)- camouflage pants Olmsted's landscape.

3.Decoy Concealment of real ones dummy target Folded landscape neither building nor nature.

4.Confusion Accurate subject Obscure vision with illogical targets.

Construction & Fabrication

Curvilinear plan shapes translated into arcs, tangents, straight lines taken from a pair of camouflaged pattern pants. Contemporary fabrication technique reduces on-site labour. Factory cut fiber glass panels and foam headers, using the landscape architects CAD files as templates.

Selected Design

Deception Camouflage.

The camouflage patterns were initially traced from a pair of hip-hop pants. Pants pattern scaled and fitted into roof area.

Material Palette

Deception Camouflage. Recycled and Factory made materials used. Originally Phillip-Johnson bricks for headers that outlined the shapes but dropped because of budget constraint and difficulty in obtaining shapes.Artificial boxwood shrubs

Recycled black Crushed white rubber marble chips

Ground covers

Crushed recycled glass

Black synthetic White synthetic boulder boulder

Milled foam header

Green fiberglass grating

Shrub assembly & Boulders

Ground covers

Criticism & Philosophy

Explained the concept of the design of rectilinear and curvilinear geometry to the clients using the examples of


Ken Smith is a fantastic Landscape architect, but everybody makes mistakes. The client wanted an artificial garden without any leaks so they hired Smith to commit the crime of the century. MoMA has designed such a disaster when real green roofs were all in rage. The artificial boxwood trees used have a life of seven years, leaving the garden wide open for removal or new fake trees.

Top of Rockefeller centre

Noguchis work at UNESCO


Commitment to public space, environmentalism, history of context. Designs based on minimalism, irony and icons. Certain abstractness to the project in the middle multiple meanings (allows openness and certain level of interpretation central park & Japanese garden). Peter Walkers minimalism, Martha Schwartz pop approach Randomness that is rooted to geometry (wall flowers pinned in invisible grids).

Bibliography Ksla brochure Book KSLA urban projects, Jane Amidon.