Übercool Architecture Magazine Visits Bernal Home with Living Roof



Dwell is a glamorous San Francisco-based magazine about modern domestic architecture, and it’s no exaggeration to say that Dwell influences the design agenda for forward-thinking homeowners and residential architects nationwide.

In its current issue, Dwell celebrates Neighbor Peter and Neighbor Grace’s Bernal Heights home on Ellsworth, which features lovely landscaped gardens in the back yard and… on the roof:

Bernal Hill, one of San Francisco’s sunniest and least-developed spots, is a bare peak rising some 450 feet out 
of an otherwise densely packed neighborhood of charming turn-of-the-20th-century homes and shops. But whereas many manmade gardens are watered to be verdant year-round, Bernal Hill’s winter green and summer brown are a refreshing marker of the seasons. And that 
is exactly what designer Peter Liang desired atop his recently remodeled 2,000-square-foot home on the hill’s southern slope.

Now his 580-square-foot green roof is like a piece 
of the hill; its indigenous vegetation—seeded by birds and wind—is irrigated only by seasonal rain and dew.

Purple thistles, California poppies, clover, and dandelions have all taken root in the roughly ten-inch-deep, 
lightweight humus and grape-husk soil. Liang has even handcrafted naturalistic undulations in the roof’s terrain to serve as shields against night breezes for when he 
and his wife, Grace, slip up through a ceiling hatch to sleep under the stars.

PHOTOS: Ike Ideani for Dwell

8 thoughts on “Übercool Architecture Magazine Visits Bernal Home with Living Roof

  1. Curious that roof is quite green, while nearby Bernal Hill, which is also only irrigated by seasonal rain and dew, is completely dried out.
    Any explanations?
    It’s a wonderful sight!

    • I don’t know my plants that well, but they may have simply chosen plants that retain water for that very reason, unlike the Bernal grass.

      Or they cheat and water it.

    • That is great Peter, and thanks for coming clean! But really, thanks for opening up your house a bit so we can catch a glimpse of some of the coolness going on. Cheers

  2. I noticed this:
    “its indigenous vegetation—seeded by birds and wind…..Purple thistles, California poppies, clover, and dandelions have all taken root”, which seems to imply that the entire thing was seeded by mother nature alone. Is that really the case?

    • 99% true. When we first built the roof, I planted a few young grasses and tossed out some seed, but they never took and quickly died. Then there was a round of wild weeds and some crazy tumbleweeds that blew off the roof as they died. Might have been some latent plant-life in the soil (“lightweight growth medium”) mixture.

      But what really took and lasted is what you see in the pictures. Mimics the hilltop pretty nicely. No intervention other than some watering for the shoot. Pretty cool, huh?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s