Seneca may have disapproved of them, but roof gardens are part of the poetry of urban lifeby Lesley Chamberlain / July 26, 2008 / Leave a comment
Published in July 2008 issue of Prospect Magazine
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Roof terraces do redeem the city. All gardens are refuges, but a garden in the sky offers a special dispensation—the chance to still live in the frantic world without, momentarily, participating. Think of it as like living in a lighthouse: a maritime address that doesn’t entail living in the sea. Of course, we aren’t up here all the time, but at least once every day of the year it’s imperative to see the plants are not parched or swept away or frozen, which sometimes means leaving footprints in virgin frost. We inspect the state of neighbouring roofs and, in all seasons, watch the sun burn a red hole in Canary Wharf.
Discounting those with no head for heights, or who find the steep, narrow steps too much, our friends divide into those who feel sorry for us not having a “real garden” and those who would also not mind breakfasting on a battered white bench with a hassle-free 180-degree panorama of London. It’s not schadenfreude one feels for the car-bound masses occasionally speeding, mostly crawling, below, more a renewed sense of wonder that everything works so well. People get up in the morning and go home at night and the cars don’t bump into each other. Fancy that! When they do, from above their heads we can plot their angry gestures and the odd position of their vehicles like blips on a graph. The sight could be painted as an urban still life.