Highlighting an untapped spatial resource, MVRDV's Rooftop Catalogue, in collaboration with Rotterdam Rooftop Days, is now available online for free. Commissioned by the City of Rotterdam, the Rooftop Catalogue presents 130 innovative ideas to make use of Rotterdam's empty flat roofs, showcasing a potential new phase in the city's development and illustrating how reprogramming rooftops can help with issues such as land scarcity and climate change while also addressing the practical side of repurposing these spaces in terms of construction options and suitable sites.
With 18.5 square kilometers of mostly empty flat roofs, Rotterdam's rooftops hold significant potential in creating a multi-layered urban environment, allowing the city to continue developing inward. The Rooftop Catalogue highlights how rooftops can become the spatial infrastructure for renewable energy, become the site for climate change action within the urban environment, or help alleviate the housing crisis. From planted surfaces enhancing urban biodiversity to sports facilities, event spaces, community workshops and even stadiums, the catalogue highlights a vast array of uses, each specific to certain building typologies and roof types and addressing various UN Sustainable Development Goals.
I think we need a new Building Code, or rather a Rooftop Code, with a helpdesk for the homeowners' associations and corporations that take the initiative. You should be able to stack the four elements – water, greenery, energy, and population – on top of each other, like a sandwich. It should be defined in some kind of regulation that rooftops should be able to support that weight. Stronger structures are more sustainable.
-- MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas.
For several years now, different initiatives and events have made the general public more aware of this untapped resource for expanding the public space. Rotterdam Rooftop Days is a project that aims to "show how rooftops can contribute to a healthy, vibrant, inclusive, attractive and future-proof city", whose temporary interventions allow dwellers to experience the city differently while also contributing to Rotterdam's roofscape transformation.
MVRDV has promoted the idea of activating the rooftop on several occasions, starting with the design of the house extension project Didden Village. In 2016, the practice created the Stairs of Kriterion installation, expanding the public space on the roof of a prominent building in Rotterdam. For the If Factory renovation project, the studio adds a green bamboo landscape on the roof, packed with activities and accessible through a public staircase. At the same time, the refurbishment of the Pyramid of Tirana further enhances the roof as a public space. In addition to activating existing rooftops, the practice has been programming the roofs of new designs such as Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, which offers the city a rooftop forest. In 2022, MVRDV developed the RoofScape prototype, alongside Superworld and the Municipality of Rotterdam, a visualization engine for Rotterdam’s rooftops that proposes an accessible means of incorporating the growing ecosystem of municipal urban data, producing concrete suggestions that simulate the interplay of rooftop programs (green, water retention, residential, and social spaces) according to an impact matrix defined by the city to stimulate the activation of this relatively underutilized urban layer.