Annals Of Improbable Places To Stick A Garden–On Top Of A Moving Bus Edition

Landscape artist Marc Ganen has managed to free up a bit of empty real estate to make cramped urban spaces a little more green.

Rooftop gardens are everywhere these days–but normally the greenery is stationary, not moving at 40 mph. The Phytokinetic garden is designed by Marc Ganen, a landscape artist from Spain. He’s fixed his lightweight steel-and-carpet system to several buses already, and he wants to add a lot more, seeing as it is an efficient way to green cities.


“If we en-garden thousands of [buses] in cities like New York, L.A., Madrid, Tokyo, Berlin, Rio, and Delhi, we ‘ll have thousand of hectares of new green areas. That will help to reduce the heat island effect, and increase vegetation and biodiversity,” he says.

The Phytokinetic garden is made of aquaponic foam housed in a steel grid. To help keep the surface moist, Ganen places a sedum carpet of small succulents on top, and then adds small shrubs and ferns, and a protective mesh. Most ingeniously, he waters the whole thing using waste from the bus’s air conditioning unit.

Ganen isn’t stopping at buses in his quest to grow gardens on mobile real estate. He recently put the Phytokinetic on a van (see picture) and drove it at more than 60 mph down the highway. And he’s been talking with caravan builders, as well. “I really want to see thousands of Phytokinetic roofs around the world, in any vehicle, helping to increase as many green areas as possible,” he says.

The original bus, which you can see in the video here, plied a route outside Girona, in northern Spain. Since then, Ganen has worked on getting permits, developing new materials, and preparing a technical report that he can take to investors and sponsors.

He admits that people are often skeptical about the idea, wondering if the extra weight adds to fuel costs or makes vehicles unstable. But he says all such problems can be overcome by balancing the weight outside and inside. And the benefits might outweigh the costs–he calculates that the Phytokinetic cools buses by 3.5 degrees Celsius and helps them save on air conditioning.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.