Thursday, July 15, 2010

[Mid-Term] "Midori Yane" A Japanese-inspired tiled green roof by Amanda Loomis, Crystal Morrison and Jennifer Purcell

Project description:
As an experiment in the combination of landscape, architecture, and product design this green roof addresses the need for a modular integral roofing and planting unit. This horticultural building system was inspired by Japanese style ceramic tile roofing systems.


Japanese roofs: the artistic waves of interlocking tiles opened the design opportunities to modification for planting materials.
By taking an artistic approach to the project, our focus is to create a beautiful and functional roof that is also sustainable.


The origin of clay roofing tile can be traced independently to two different parts of the world: China, during the Neolithic Age, beginning around 10,000 B.C.; and the Middle East, a short time later. From these regions, the use of clay tile spread throughout Asia and Europe. Not only the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, but also the Greeks and Romans roofed their buildings with clay tiles, and adaptations of their practice continue in Europe to the present. European settlers brought this roofing tradition to America where it was established in many places by the 17th century.

Ceramic tile roofs can have a life of 100 years and have been used and reused for centuries. Research shows that tile roofs retain heat in cooler temperatures as well as staying cool in extreme heat better than traditional asphalt tiles widely used in the U.S.

Clay roof tiles have fireproof qualities, are durable and require little maintenance. Due to these benefits, ceramic tile roofs which are an ancient sustainable product are making a comeback in the U.S.

The first tile-making machine was patented in the 1870’s. There are large production factories all over the United States. Some of the first were located in Akron, Ohio and Baltimore, Maryland.

In the 18th Century, S shaped, also called pan tiles, were widely used in the United States. The tiles are hung on roofing laths by a ridge. They are connected by peg holes, nails, screws and often, mortar at the ridgelines. We experimented with various forms for the tile such as Italian, Spanish and Japanese style tile. We sketched various forms as shown in these images:

We were most interested in Japanese style roof tiles. Semicircle ridge tiles that are often decorative, cap the end of the clay roof. Decorative end cap- Antique Japanese ceramic roof tile decorated with swirling comma pattern.

Roof tiles are called kawara in Japan, where they are used not only to protect a home from the elements but are also as important architectural ornaments. Roof eaves are sometimes decorated with special pendant tiles called nokimarugawara which feature a circular disk attached to a half-round tile. The disk (gatou) will often feature an image such as a household seal (kamon) or an image thought to act as a protective charm.
Decorative roof tiles often feature images associated with water, as such images were once thought to provide protection against the dangers of fire. An especially important water symbol was the swirling tomoe pattern. The basic tomoe design originated in China and has been used in Japan since at least the Yayoi period (300 B.C.-300 A.D.). The pattern always includes one or more comma-shaped swirls oriented in a right or left facing pattern. This image is thought to symbolize water as the Chinese character used to write this name translates as either “whirlpool” or “eddy”. The tomoe design has spiritual connotations as well and is a frequently seen on religious implements and used with temple and shrine architecture.

The field tiles will have a cupped structure inspired by the ginkgo leaf. The cup will hold a growing medium to support plant growth. The approximate depth of soil medium will be 3 1/2”. We were inspired by the form of the fan shaped gingko leaf and plan to imprint the pattern of the leaf on the fan shaped cup.

A pneumatic clay tile extruder will be used to create the roofing pieces. There will be 4 distinct tiles to comprise the roof. Left gable, right gable, field tile and eave tiles. Each tile will need two dies creating two separate pieces which will then be put together then fired as one roofing tile.

An extra step will need to be done to the field tiles and the eave tiles. The field tiles will need an additional piece added to hold the growing medium and plants. The eave tile pieces will be the combination of the field tile with a front cap piece added as well as a final circular artistic tile.

An additional roof space will be constructed off of the side of the storage container at the Courthouse Garden. This roof will be built using 2x6's, plywood, lag screws and nailing plates. The slope of the roof will be 4/12, making it a relatively low-slope roof. The roof construction can be seen in the following drawings:

Traditional ceramic tile roof installation processes will be used to install the roof. 30# felt roofing material will be installed over the plywood roof. Tiles will be fit together and be fastened to the roof using screws.

Soil medium will be a 80/20 mix of perlite and loam. The ginkgo shaped soil pockets will be lined with nonwoven fiber, then filled with the soil medium. The following plants will be used:

Our construction schedule is front-loaded with tile fabrication due to kiln availability. The kiln will be available to us until the last two weeks of class. So in order to have time to create test tiles and produce the number of tiles needed, we will first create the tiles and then construct the roof. We have been fairly conservative in estimating our time for fabrication, which has given us some room to shift deadlines as needed. A tentative project timeline is as follows:

Our materials are very easy to come by and have been sourced locally. Our materials include:
-2x6 lumber from reclaimed cedar decking on site
-30# roofing felt from BRING! Or Jerry's
-Plywood onsite
-Fasteners (nailing plates, tile screws, lag screws) from Jerry's ($10)
-2'x2' Aluminum plate for extruder templates from Coyote Steel ($29)
-Ceramic clay from Ceramics department (approx. $40)
-Plants from local cuttings and purchased from Grey's as needed
-nonwoven fiber


  1. I really like the durable-yet-natural materials involved, and the identical pieces would allow a small stock of repair pieces. The pallette looks good, a nice variety of colors and shapes.

    I wasn't really clear on the "additional piece" that would be placed to keep the plants from sliding until I looked at the elevation. Would it be ceramic tile as well?

    It seems the tiles used for inspiration are designed to speed the flow of water along its surface for removal. How would this deal with rain water, and how might it drain?

  2. Hi all,
    First - I am very interested in what you have come up with. the ceramic tiles are appropriate for all the reasons you outline. I need help understanding a few things.

    Why the Gingko motif?
    why have the form of the tiles you made? Will it feel very Japanese-esque? If so, I would question this. How does the design respond to the contaxt- the container - other green structures that might also go there? How does it respond to the shiny shiny building beyond? And how about the aesthetic of the courthouse garden?

    can you all help me by answering these questions?

  3. Very cool project.

    I really like the plant pallet as shown in the images, and am very impressed by the timeline/project schedule you have. Quite the task to not only think through the design of this thing but to work out every major step necessary to get it built!!

    I am still a bit confused by how the soil / growing medium will sit in relationship to the tiles. I wish there were more detailed drawings of this, and perhaps a more developed planting design drawing. There is that section/elevation drawing with the Ginkgo leaves, but I still don’t get it.

    Although I love "Japanese style" roofing tile, I have to agree with Liska. How does this theme relate to the context and surroundings? Not only the federal courthouse building, but the vegetable garden itself, the storage buildings to the south of the site, 6th Ave to the north and the traffic that goes by, etc. And, is there a relationship to the train tracks or to the river? Even though it is just a master plan, did any of you think about the EWEB redevelopment master plan and how the garden and your roof would relate to that if it were realized?

    There may be very good justifications regarding how your proposed design fits in with the context or why it is appropriate -- just needs to be explicitly stated.

    :-) Yeah!! I can't wait to see where all this goes.

  4. I love that you have managed to integrate your personal interests into the studio parameters and have now established a precedent for future vegetative roof work in ceramics. I think this is an entirely unique creation, and commend you for creating a system that involves processes used in other disciplines. The hybridization of disciplines is essential to the practice of landscape architecture, and it is my belief that these crossdiscipline excursions should not be limited to just ecology, architecture, and planning. I encourage you to continue exploring other ways of working in studio that borrow from diverse disciplines and practices.
    Unlike the other comments above, I am not so worried about the referential nature of the japanese tile, and appreciate the process not the form.
    Continue to document your process!!

  5. I do have some concern about the final soil volume, but I realize there are limitations of the extruder you are using. I think 4 inches is a minimum soild depth, and any addtional depth you can create make it easier to grow plants due to water retention and rooting volume. With a larger extruder i think you could easily create a larger volume, so im not that worried.. just keep having fun and pay attention to your firing, finsihsing and glazes.

  6. I come from Vietnam and I have a Japanese resort project.Thank you so much for your report.