Molly Meyer talks food & design at MAS Context : Analog, a day of talks, a pop-up bookstore and film screening hosted at The Joinery in Logan Square. The event is part of the 2017 Chicago Design Week, 7 days of programming and events examining the various intersections impacting the design world and our broader communities.
Omni Ecosystems was thrilled to contribute to this year's River Edge Ideas Lab, an exhibit for the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial.
Omni closely collaborated with architecture firm Perkins + Will on a conceptual, exciting design that would extend the riverwalk and re-animate the Chicago River. Their combined vision—titled Third Nature— creates harmony between the area’s built environment and ecological assets. Their strategy imagines Chicago’s first riverside beach, a vertically oscillating plaza and a wetland water filtration system among other forward-thinking concepts.
For the exhibit, the City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development and the Metropolitan Planning Planning Council invited nine world-class architecture and landscape architecture firms to develop ideas for three sites along the river: the Civic Opera Edge, the Congress Parkway Edge, and the the Air Line Bridge Edge.
“We developed overarching principles, and dove into what makes each site unique, and explore ways to celebrate that,“ said Michael Skowlund, Omni’s Director of Landscape Architecture who partnered on the project.
For years, the Chicago river edge has been zoned industrial, lined with freight rail, grain towers, steel & lumber yards and other hallmarks of the city’s fierce and notorious industrialization.
Pre-industrialization, the unadulterated landscape looked much different. Tallgrass prairies, beach dunes, dense forest and wetland marshes were among the ecological treasures bordering the river.
Merging these histories—alternatively known as First Nature and Second Nature— informed their prospective design, Skowlund said.
Although conceptual, the ideas could have a real impact on future development along the river. The vision along with public feedback will help inform the city’s new river edge design guidelines.
The ideas exhibit also aligns with the MPC Our Great Rivers action-agenda which calls for the Chicago River to be a more inviting, productive and livable landscape by 2040.
“There is a push to make the Chicago River an amenity— a space people can access and engage. It is transforming from an industrial river into a recreational river,” Skowlund said. “This is an exciting opportunity to help shape that future!”
The ideas exhibit is free and open to the public. Residents are highly encouraged to voice their opinions and provide feedback in person or online.
On display September 18-January 7, 2018 at:
Expo 72, 72 E. Randolph St.
Omni & Perkins + Will live gallery talk October 10 at:
Expo 72, 72 E. Randolph St.
Omni Ecosystems will accept two awards at the 2017 Cities Alive Conference, hosted by North America’s trade association for living infrastructure professionals. The Awards of Excellence celebrate the most exemplary green roofs across 9 categories, and are chosen by a prestigious multi-disciplinary judging panel that includes architects, landscape architects, engineers, and horticulturists.
Omni's winning projects were selected for their innovations in ecology, rooftop agriculture and urban living.
You can read more about Omni and other award-winning projects in the most-recent issue of Living Architecture Monitor.
“At Omni, we see green roofs as more than a sustainable technology. They are viable spaces for food, fellowship, education, research, and employment, and these two award-winning projects exemplify that ethos. We look forward to developing future groundbreaking projects that elevate the possibilities of living infrastructure systems and that reconnect people with nature.”
- Molly Meyer
Rooftop Wheat Prairie
Taking top honors in the Extensive Commercial category is Omni’s Rooftop Wheat Prairie, a unique, picturesque landscape growing atop Studio Gang Architects headquarters in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood.
In designing this roof, a team of architects and ecologists sowed a crop of red winter wheat into a 4,700-square-foot, 5-inch rooftop prairie. The grain’s purpose was threefold: creating a singular pastoral aesthetic for the client, one that mirrored the Midwestern landscape; providing wind protection for cover crops and wildflowers also growing in the meadow; and determining the extent to which green roofs could address food security issues in urban landscapes vis-a-vis cereal grain production. The proof-of-concept research conducted at this site resulted in the first-known rooftop wheat harvest, which produced 66 pounds of high-quality pastry flour, and provided a working model for urban grain production.
1516 West Carroll Rooftop Farm
Winning the Intensive Commercial category is Omni’s 1516 West Carroll Rooftop Farm, a fully-functioning, commercial-scale rooftop farm located in Chicago’s West Loop.
The site features three roofs, which are farmed commercially. The 4-8 inch green roofs yield 44 different crops in more than 100 varieties, including green beans, potatoes, radishes, turnips, raspberries, and even apples. The fruits, veggies and florals harvested from the farm are purchased by nearby food cooperatives, consumers and restaurants which use them in locally-sourced dishes and drinks. Harvests are conducted weekly, making the roof a viable and reliable source of hyperlocal food.
Last month, Omni completed the installation of an 8,500-square-foot Omni Green Roof atop the Indiana Pacers new, $50 million training complex in downtown Indianapolis. The 5-inch system supports a thriving food meadow and native prairie. Rooftop produce will feed building tenants and the cities hungry population through a local nonprofit.
"The facility, which was designed by locally based Ratio Architects, also has an 8,500-square-foot rooftop garden, which currently features basil, corn, lettuce, radishes and bok choy. Vegetables grown in the garden will be used in-house by the Pacers’ food services provider, Levy Catering, and donated to Second Helpings, a local not-for-profit focused on hunger relief. " - Indianapolis Business Review
Read more about the impressive new complex below:
Last week, Omni CEO Molly Meyer joined a panel of design professionals and thought leaders for the Designing for Wellness summit presented by Metropolis Magazine and Sunbrella. The two-day summit focused on the importance of wellness in the built environment.
Follow this link to watch Molly's full-length discussion on "Placemaking in the Information Age"
The Omni team had a great time at the 13th Annual Boat Cruise, organized by the USGBC Illinois chapter. Omni was proud to sponsor this year's event which advances USGBC's mission to advance green buildings and sustainable communities. More than 500 industry professionals were in attendance, and money raised from the event will support USBGC-Illinois' community service projects, like the upcoming Green Apple Day of Service.
Omni Ecosystems extends a heartfelt thanks to the USGBC Massachusetts team for organizing a great Green Building Showcase 2017 in the incredible space at ISEC. We are grateful to Grey Lee and Emily Kingston who introduced us to this wonderful opportunity to learn about the projects distinguishing Boston in architecture and sustainability and to meet the people who are pushing those fields forward.
Meeting articulate and motivated people from throughout the industry and seeing the collective ambition of those assembled reminded us how important and inspiring it is to strive for excellence and to further what is possible. We saw great examples of how design, architecture, and living infrastructure can address issues across the social, economic, and environmental spectrums.
It was an honor to win the Social Equity Green Building Market Leadership award and to be in the company of so many other worthy and wonderful projects. All of us at Omni Ecosystems are grateful for this award, and look forward to groundbreaking projects ahead!
Omni and our sister company, The Roof Crop, were featured in a recent article from RE Journals.
We're highlighted as green design innovators, creating new opportunities for ecological stewardship within the industrial sector through Omni's ultra-lightweight Infinity Media.
Read the full article here: http://www.rejournals.com/2017/05/23/innovation-could-help-industrial-sector-embrace-green-design/
Omni Workshop is seeking creative, independent, and conscientious thinkers with a commitment to our shared vision: landscapes have the power to change everyday lives. Join our collaborative firm as a Designer and work closely with our team of professionals. Candidates should be self-motivated and adhere to high standards of excellence and accountability.
Strong conceptual design ability at a variety of scales and strong 3D spatial design, graphic representation and software skills
Enthusiastic commitment to the multidisciplinary design process and team-focused environment
Demonstrated knowledge in the art and practice of landscape architecture, urban design, related history and theory, and private and public development
Completion of a professionally-accredited landscape architecture or architectural degree program
Entry-level to 5 years experience
If you are a dedicated designer who excels at collaboration and meets the above qualifications, then please send your CV and portfolio to Jessica Bourque at email@example.com. Portfolios must be submitted for all design positions. Applications without work samples will not be considered. Portfolios should be one PDF attachment, 10-20 pages, at a maximum of 5 MB.
At Omni, we welcome and encourage diversity in the workplace. We believe an inclusive environment benefits our employees, our firm, and our community, while also enriching and challenging our own thinking about design. We are proud to be an equal opportunity employer.
A recent article from Thrillist spotlights the growing movement of urban agriculture and its potential to transform our cities. Omni was happy to be featured as an urban farming leader for the story, talking about the challenges and rewards of growing food in green roofs.
Omni's headquarters features an 8,000-square-foot rooftop farm, growing in 4-8 inches of media. We work with our partners at The Roof Crop to distribute the food directly to local restaurants and consumers.
Read the full story here: https://www.thrillist.com/lifestyle/nation/how-urban-farming-took-root
The Studio Gang Treehouse officially is one of Chicago's best event spaces, according to a prestigious yearly list compiled by Crain Chicago Business.
A key element of the stunning rooftop respite is a 5,000-square-foot Omni Ecosystems prairie, home to the one of the world's only known rooftop wheat fields. The Midwestern prairie grows in 5 inches of media and was installed in 2015.
Congrats to our friends at Studio Gang! Read more about the Treehouse and other winners here: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/section/best-chicago-event-spaces-directory
Chicago Roof Deck + Garden picked our brain about all things green roof for a recent Q&A. Omni talks about the novelty of rooftop farming, the upcoming projects we're most excited for, and the basics of green roof technology.
Read the full interview here: http://www.chicagoroofdeck.com/blog/green-roofs/
Recover Green Roofs and Omni Ecosystems have proved a winning combination— literally. Our collaborative green roof project for Harvard Business School was awarded Waterproofing Project of the Year from renowned industrial supplier, Sika.
The award-winning roof marks Omni's first installation on the East Coast. Big thanks to Recover Green Roofs—an Omni certified supplier—for installing our system so beautifully!
Project description from Sika:
"Recently, some of the brightest minds in the country turned to the brightest minds in roofing. When Harvard Business School wanted to replace a small, existing green roof with an intensive system covering 11,000-square feet, they looked to Recover Green Roofs of Somerville, Mass., for the answer.
Recover connected with Omni Ecosystems to become the Northeast’s first certified installer of their comprehensive green roof system. After Sarnafil G 410 membrane was installed, Recover put down Omni's ultra-light soil blend that grows a diverse variety of native species, which mimic the natural cycle of a meadow and self-regenerate with each season. This project is a living example of what is possible in sustainable roofing in an urban environment."
Check out other winners here: http://usa.sarnafil.sika.com/en/group/literature/what-new/project_of_the_year_winners/2016-project-of-the-year.html
Omni Ecosystems CEO Molly Meyer recently joined the Board of Directors at Openlands, a municipal conservation organization serving northeastern Illinois.
Since its creation in 1963, Openlands has preserved more than 55,000 acres of natural and open space to ensure cleaner air and water and protect natural habitats and wildlife.
Read Molly's comments in the organization's publication, Openlander, below.
"Nature is important to me as a place for getting centered, for reconnecting with who I am and with what I care about," says Molly. "In nature, I am able to quiet my mind, and yet I'm able to connect with other people. Those two sides of the experience are important: nature is where I can recharge alone or where we can commune together.
"I love experiencing nature in Chicago atop the green rooftops my company Omni Ecosystems creates. We create verdant ecosystems where you feel like you are walking through a meadow or a prairie, but really you are a few stories up (or many stories!) on a green roof. We also create agricultural roofs where you can pick and eat a tomato or a pepper or some kale. We even grew a wheat roof in Wicker Park then harvested and milled it into high-grade pastry flour. Access to nature is vital for all, and it's great when it's right upstairs. I also love to walk my dog along the Chicago River where there is green space and public access.
Asked about her favorite Openlands program, Molly doesn't hesitate: "TreeKeepers is so cool! Look at the impact it has, addressing both trees and the community for the long term. Progress compounds, which is so important because even small incremental change over a long period has an incredibly substantial impact. That is what a 54-year-old organization can do.
"I look forward to supporting and becoming more knowledgeable about the great work Openlands does. It is an honor to be able to contribute to furthering Chicagoans' access to nature."
You can learn more about Openlands at https://openlands.org/
A harvest of impressive radishes from our rooftop meadow at Harvard Business School was made into a delicious side dish. The daikons were served in a cucumber radish salad at the facility.
Omni Ecosystems was named a world-changing agricultural innovator for our work in rooftop farming.
At Omni, we're proud to be an island of already in a sea of not yet. Our lightweight, comprehensive green roofs support fully-operational farms, providing easy and immediate access to local, sustainable food. With our recent wheat harvest, we shattered the the boundaries of urban agriculture and became one of the first entities to successfully harvest and process rooftop grain.
We believe this kind of bold innovation is vital to bettering our communities. Thanks to Inhabitat for featuring Omni green roofs as one of "7 agricultural innovations that could save the world" Click here to read the full list and learn about other important work on this front.
Omni Ecosystems is laying the foundation for a new, innovative design studio, known as The Omni Workshop, with the hiring of landscape architect Michael Skowlund, PLA, ASLA, LEED AP.
Skowlund brings more than a decade of industry experience to his post as Director of Landscape Architecture, joining the Omni team after six years with Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects.
“Nationally, Omni is making bold moves, and there’s a great opportunity to develop a progressive landscape architecture studio here,” Skowlund said. “I look forward to applying everything I’ve learned and doing great work.”
Skowlund excels at large-scale, collaborative design, and has contributed to award-winning projects throughout the country. Most notably, the SandRidge Energy Commons project which transformed a blighted area of Oklahoma City into a model space for civic engagement.
Aligned with Omni’s ethos to democratize green infrastructure, Skowlund’s passion is in creating accessible, working landscapes that go beyond aesthetics and solve community problems.
“Michael is an outstanding leader in landscape architecture, with a wealth of experience and an eye for designing spaces that make a positive impact on communities,” said Molly Meyer, CEO and Founder of Omni Ecosystems.
“We are thrilled to have Michael join our diverse team of scientists, construction professionals, and ecosystem stewards. By creating the landscape architecture studio, Omni now provides the full suite of turnkey solutions for all living infrastructure. From designing landscapes to inventing, supplying, installing and maintaining ecosystems, we are lowering costs for clients and increasing accountability.”
Omni's grain harvest is still making news, recently featured in Modern Farmer and AgNet West.
Click here for the full story story via AgNet West: "But one architectural firm in Chicago that has a 5-thousand-square foot rooftop garden took it a step further, you might say by accidentally harvesting a wheat crop."
Click here for the full story via Modern Farmer: "Wheat is an unconventional choice for rooftop gardens and farms, but if this experience is replicable, well, maybe it shouldn’t be."