The Textile Roof Garden Project: People, Place and Planet

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This paper reflects on the design, development and creative use of materials required to build a textile inspired roof garden. The textile roof garden was based on the 6th floor of the newly built Ulster University Belfast Campus, in the heart of the city centre. The project concept was supported by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) through the School Pollinator grant and the Physical resources department at Ulster University. With a focus on ‘people, place and planet’ it was proposed that a range of possible benefits for staff, students and the wider community would be achieved by raising awareness using diverse materials. Intrinsic to the design was the reconnection with natural fibres and the lengthy processes often necessary in the production of fibre prior to its construction as a fabric for products. Wool was a key material in the garden, with Ireland having a combined (North/South) sheep population of approximately 5.91 million sheep (DAFM sheep census report 2019). Currently, Irish wool captures little value in the large-scale value chains for wool resulting in a wool waste issue. The garden was designed to showcase wool and the possibilities for valorisation. Recently the Galway wool Coop has produced local wool fibres native to Ireland and this was made into a non-woven fabric for use in the textile garden. Colour and textural interest were created by combining the Galway wool with waste burrs that make the tweed effect in Donegal yarns. The rationale for the roof garden was to provide a showcase for the diverse possibilities that wool can bring both aesthetically and nutritively for people, place and planet. Testing and analysis of these benefits was further explored by embedding the waste wool in the soil, and mapping that against the decomposition rates of other fibres such as lyocell, linen, hemp and polymers. Discussion centres around the use of wool in the design of the garden, the benefits of wool as a material and the textile garden as a model for education and community in Belfast and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished online - 19 Sept 2023


  • wool fibre fabric yarn composites hemp flax


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