Candidate – Germany

Submission by: Landschaftsarchitektur+ Holzapfel-Herziger & Benesch PartG mbB

Project name: MPSD


Short description

The Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) offers a beautiful rooftop landscape for the researchers to take extensive breaks, to hold back heavy rains and to reuse grey water for use inside the building. The projects provides an holistic approach to landscape design as well as sustainability and social cohesion.

Social Cohesion

As a contrast to the work in low-light laboratories, the building was given a large roof landscape for re­creation and relaxation. The concept was developed together with scientists in cooperative workshops in order to best meet their needs. As top international research is always based on working together, the rooftop garden is accessible also from the outside and the neighboring institutions via ramps and stairs on two sides. This makes it a meeting place for the international research community and a well-being place for the individual. In addition, the roof area creates a path connection across the campus, which was blocked by the building.


More than half of the entire terraced roof area was covered in greenery. The two upper roof levels which accommodate the necessary technical systems are characterized by a variety of extensive gree­nery with sedum, herbs and grasses. The two lower roof levels are planted with dense, intensive gree­nery with perennials, shrubs, small and bigger trees such as copper rock pear (Amelanchier lamarckii), ironwood tree (Parrotia persica) and different maple species. Their fruits, flowers and seeds provide food for many insects and bird species. Plus: the combination of robust and heat tolerant small trees and perennials reduces care costs and increases the resistance of the planting.


Economic factors

The green roof improves the heat balance in the building and can save on air condition costs. Rainwater is retained by the green roof, excess water is stored in a cistern and later on used as gray water in the building (e.g. for flushing toilets) and for irrigation of the greenery. Both reduce the costs of wastewater disposal and irrigation. Plus: the green roof extends the lifespan of the roof covering and saves reno­vation costs.


Green roofs have a positive effect on the microclimate of the building and its surroundings. Green roofs store rainwater and slowly evaporate it again. This relieves the burden on the sewage system and ensures a more balanced climate. They produce oxygen, filter polluted air, absorb radiation and thereby improve the climate overall. In this project, high substrate layers from 20 to 100 cm and a large number of plants ensure particularly strong effects.

Wellbeing of visitors/users

The roof garden is designed as a versatile roof landscape. Curved paths invite you to stroll and exercise. On benches you can take a break and enjoy the beautiful view over the roof garden and the little park area behind the building. The diverse green roof planting stimulates the senses and allows a break from the strenuous work in the laboratories. There are also seats of the cafeteria on the roof which means you can also enjoy your meals outdoors. From the roof you can access the campus and take a walk.

 Selection, origin and quality of used products

Natural wood is used on the terraces to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere for the users. The paths are designed with a water-bound cover so that rainwater can pass through. The substrate for the green roof consists of natural local materials such as lava, pumice, compost and sand. The local origin had to be confirmed with a delivery note. When choosing plants, special attention was paid to robustness, drought resistance and suitability as a nutrient plant for different animals.

Overall design

The overall design is based on natural landscapes in northern Germany. The meandering, amorphous paths are reminiscent of tidal creeks on the North Sea, the waving perennials resemble the marsh landscapes on the windy coasts of northern Germany. The perennials are planted in flowering bands and offer a nuanced picture of the different species. The small trees create differences in height and are pleasing to the eye. Large trees rise from the courtyards and connect the levels of the buildings. With good care, the greenery produces attractive flowers and leaf colours all year round. With little care the flowers recede and the small trees and shrubs predominate.

Impact on environment

The roof landscape shapes the identity of the building and forms a new landmark on campus. The gree­nery creates atmosphere and improves the climate. Due to the accessibility from outside, the roof areas improve social cohesion on campus and expand the heavily sealed campus to include a public open space. The roof surfaces serve as a retention area and have a positive effect on rainwater management. Rainwater is used circularly to save water and costs.

Innovation value of the project

Normally, roof areas (especially of research institutions) are reserved only for the owners or a very small group of selected users. The roof garden of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dy­namics of Matter (MPSD) on the other hand can be used my many people also from the neighbouring institutes. They can benefit from the positive effects of greenery on the psyche and use the roof as a meeting place to improve their scientific collaboration. The building thus becomes a positive symbol of collaboration, innovation and respectful treatment of nature.


Pictures: (c) Landschaftsarchitektur+