In today’s guest post William Wyckoff, author of How to Read the American West: A Field Guide, takes us on a tour of the rooftop gardens of San Francisco. A geographer and an accomplished photographer, he provides a fresh perspective on the natural and cultural landscapes of the American West. In his book and in this guest post, Wyckoff encourages us to see the places where we live, work, and visit in a new light and to reconsider commonly held stereotypes about the American West.
One of the joys of assembling How to Read the American West was simply visiting different kinds of places with my camera and a good pair of walking shoes. A recent trip to a conference in San Francisco gave me another chance to explore. In the book, I describe various downtown landscapes in western cities, especially so-called “Mega Civic Landscapes” (Feature 72) and “Mega Consumer Landscapes” (Feature 73), and a free afternoon at the conference allowed me to see how a growing number of rooftop parks and gardens are adding a high-rise dimension to these urban spaces.
San Francisco’s rooftop greenery is part of a growing national phenomenon. Visit the top of Chicago’s City Hall or New York City’s new High Line Park (an abandoned elevated railway corridor replanted in gardens and walkways) and you will see similar central-city landscapes taking shape. Some of these spots are specifically maintained as public places, but many are so-called POPOS (privately owned public open spaces) where access is often little advertised, gained through quiet stairways or high-rise elevators. Downtown San Francisco’s Financial District offers a particularly rich mix of these verdant little getaways. Continue reading