SWA Group, the Firm Behind Renzo Piano’s Green Roof


Isn’t that the way with we great unwashed masses? All this talk about the flashy new California Academy of Sciences building, which we attribute solely to starchitect Renzo Piano, like he was out there hammering every nail and planting every hydrangea in its rooftop meadow all himself. But occasionally we should look behind the intoxicating luster of these architecture heavies and see the people who are doing the real lifting. Such it is with SWA Group, who was the landscape design firm responsible for crafting the look of said rooftop greenery. A big deal in the industry all over the world, SWA receives this well-deserved, lengthy profile by the Marin Independent Journal about their process in planning and creating the part of Piano’s building most often discussed. Here’s a bit:

SWA Group started planning the living roof in 2001 and began studying varieties of perennial plants that would be adaptable to microclimates of the park.

“We wanted to mimic the hillside beyond,” [principal architect Larry Reed] said. “We really made an attempt to create an ecological matrix that would enhance the habitat.”

The planting of native California plants and wildflowers will create a habitat for butterflies, birds, bees and any other creature that slinks or glides its way in.