Up on the rooftop

Something surprising lies beneath the luscious, green lawn and meticulously maintained landscaping at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The museum, which was founded more than a century ago and is one of the nation’s largest with nearly 1 million visitors each year, houses a parking structure beneath its scenic terrain.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

A 442-car parking garage lies beneath this landscape.

Located on a hillside, the garage is almost entirely underground with the remainder concealed by landscaped boulder walls constructed to match the original, historic landscape.

Atkin Olshin Schade Architects, a firm based in Philadelphia, PA, helped design this 442-car garage and sculpture garden.  According to the firm’s website, there are many sustainable design elements, too:

  • 26,000 square feet of green roofs, resulting in a net reduction in impervious surface area
  • Areaways to bring air and light deep into the garage, avoiding the use of mechanical ventilation
  • Incorporation of boulders excavated from the site into the landscape
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Boulders excavated from the site were incorporated into the landscaping.

With urban sprawl and the increasing need to use space wisely and sustainably, many creative parking-structure roofs exist:


The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America established a container garden on the roof of its Chicago office’s parking structure.  The hope, according to City Farmer News, was to serve as a role model for using urban space creatively.  Since the demonstration garden’s beginnings in 1993, the Chicago ELCA offices have harvested nearly 1,000 pounds of vegetables from nearly 40 wading pools and about a dozen used tires and feed sacks.

San Diego

At San Diego State University, a full track and field lives atop Parking Structure 5, the primary parking destination for Viejas Arena event-goers.  The Sports Deck serves as the home for men’s and women’s soccer programs and the women’s track team.  It features playing turf and an all-weather track, and it seats about 1,000 people (read more).

SDSU Sports Deck

SDSU's Sports Deck can be found on top of Parking Structure 5.

What creative uses have you seen atop urban parking structures?


Filed under Architecture, Sustainability, Uncategorized

4 responses to “Up on the rooftop

  1. The green roof top designed by Atkin Olshin Schade for the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is an amazing way to incorporate sustainable design in a historic urban setting. The San Diego track on it’s parking structure is amazing too. This is a great trend.

  2. We agree. Having creative ideas and novel approaches to land use are some of the ways to a better world! Thanks!

  3. Thanks for the nice comments about the Anne d’Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden and parking garage at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We must give credit to our great client (who was willing to spend extra to do the right thing by burying the parking) and to our design partner, OLIN, who collaborated on the entire project and designed all of the amazing landscape.