In at least one way, Rockefeller Center was green before its time. For 75 years formal gardens have bloomed on the roofs of the British Empire Building and Maison Française as well as on the setbacks of other Center buildings. Developer John R. Todd and architect Raymond Hood believed that architectural design should provide aesthetic delight to tenants as well as passersby, and installed these “hanging gardens” as a visual treat for the thousands of workers in the Center’s buildings.
This wasn’t strictly an aesthetic undertaking, for extra structural steel was installed to support the weight of thousands of tons of soil, pipes, pumps, and vegetation. By 1986, when a portion of the gardens was refurbished, an additional 225 cubic yards of soil had accumulated simply from the decay of plant material, the deposit of winds, and various other natural processes.
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