Nowadays, when we imagine enclosed spaces, concrete slab roofs often come to mind. However, the use of concrete in construction now raises concerns due to its documented contributions to climate change and environmental harm. In response, it is necessary to incorporate vernacular and traditional techniques into our architectural toolkit. In this context, natural coverings emerge as an excellent solution. Despite their alignment with numerous desirable project attributes, these materials, which have sheltered humans for centuries, are still underutilized in contemporary construction. Natural roofs offer biodegradable materials, making them a more sustainable option with an aesthetic appeal and enhanced thermal comfort.
Rooftops: The Latest Architecture and News
The tradition of modern architecture confirms that building roofs are usable spaces as significant as indoor areas. After all, the garden terrace is one of the five points of new architecture, according to Le Corbusier. Although he popularized the concept, the use of rooftops dates back even earlier, encompassing various roles across time, from lookouts for ancestral astronomical studies to more contemporary cultivation areas, passing through the bureaucratic accommodation of electrical and sanitary installations. By offering open space and direct sky access, building roofs have evolved. In dense urban landscapes, converting this space into a leisure area is a logical choice.
There are many ways to define architecture, from the most technical to the most poetic. It uses many aspects within its context: space, program, tectonics, and gesture, which refers to the stroke, the drawing, and the design. Perhaps the quick sketch that comes to mind when talking about gesture is that of shelter: a cut or elevation, with human scale, of vertical enclosures and coverings.
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.
Beyond light as a physical phenomenon perceptible by the human eye, daylight is an inexhaustible architectural resource that is sometimes taken for granted. Just like the air we breathe, we are all aware of the existence of light, but rarely do we seek to do anything else with it. It is essential to recognize its presence as an enabler of experiences in space, due to its intrinsic relationship with architecture and human beings.
The incidence of light in architecture directly influences the way we perceive the passage of time. Since ancient times, constructions such as ziggurats have integrated strategies to capture the changing daylight through their roofs, evolving and remaining present in modern constructions such as the Villa Savoye. More recently, the flatness of roofs in contemporary buildings has been a great resource for incorporating architectural elements that also allow them to be inhabited, such as roof access hatches, which serve as a link between natural light and roof terraces.
Below, we review some of the latest technologies in skylights and access hatches, such as those developed by LAMILUX.
The roof is one of the most essential structural elements of nearly every construction. It is the element that allows a delineated space to transform into one that feels protected. Strongly related to the climatic conditions of the context, the roof's variations in aesthetic and structural design have allowed architects to indulge their stylistic preoccupations to convert roofs not only into elements of closure and climate protection but into a character-giving feature that lends identity and flair – especially when the roof becomes a wall.
Following this opportunity, we want to highlight great examples of roofs that also become walls: 13 houses in which the roof completes the façade, delineating not only the interior in its vertical sense but also in the horizontal one.
For some time now, roofs have become leisure spaces, whether in large luxurious buildings or houses on the outskirts. This condition, however, is not limited to our times. Different cultures at different times used flat roofs in their architecture, in different ways.
“Understanding precedes action.” That is the motto of the Urban Observatory, an interactive installation and web app created by TED founder Richard Saul Wurman that compiled a wide range of urban data for over 150 cities, allowing users to compare various characteristics of those cities – from population density to traffic speed limits – side-by-side. Urban Observatory was first created in 2013, a banner year for news about urban big data; later that same year, Waag made headlines with its interactive map visualising the age of every building in the Netherlands. The emergence of such platforms allowed people to see the world around them in new ways.
With the rise of Google Earth and other GIS tools, and platforms like envelope.city, or environmental simulations based on digital twin models of cities, urban big data has quietly come to underpin a wide range of tools used by professionals who shape our cities, with both the amount of data collected and the influence it has over decision-making expanding dramatically. However, these advances typically happen behind closed doors and in undemocratic spaces. How long must we wait for software that has all the user-friendliness, accessibility, and appeal of those older platforms, but which provides the average person with the tools to shape their city? In other words, if “understanding precedes action”, then why after almost a decade are we not seeing big-data-driven apps that encourage the public to actually do something?
As cities are increasingly vertical, buildings have been finding ways to take advantage of what roofs can bring to urban life. Through halls for parties, restaurants, swimming pools, and other programs, contemporary architecture has gained access to sunlight, natural ventilation and also to the horizon due to the occupation of the rooftops, making them attractive for both residential and commercial projects. However, the interest in appreciating the city from this point of view is not the result of verticalization alone, nor is it a merely technical alternative.
Designed by Rotterdam Rooftop Days and MVRDV, the Rotterdam Rooftop Walk has finally opened to the public. The installation offers visitors a new perspective on the city, with a 30-meter-high aerial bridge that spans across a variety of the city’s rooftops, from the roof of The Bijenkorf department store to the top of the World Trade Centre plinth. The project aims to showcase how rooftops can provide an added layer of public infrastructure in a dense city where public space is scarce. Rotterdam Rooftop Walk is open from May 26 to June 24 from 10:00 to 20:00.
MVRDV revealed its design for a temporary intervention that takes tourists and city dwellers on a walk across several rooftops in Rotterdam, highlighting an untapped potential for expanding the public realm. Created in collaboration with Rotterdam Rooftop Days, the project will feature an aerial bridge from the roof of The Bijenkorf department store to the top of the World Trade Centre plinth and will be available to the public from May 26 to June 24 2022, during Rotterdam Architecture Month.
Catering to the Danish capital's aspirations regarding infrastructure and green space, the new IKEA store in Copenhagen designed by architecture studio Dorte Mandrup features a richly plated rooftop park that doubles as a new pedestrian route stretching one kilometre within Vesterbro neighbourhood. Located in one of the city's busiest area, neighbouring the central station, the historic Meatpacking District, and the inner-city harbour, the project's elevated public space offers a respite from the bustling streets, providing the area with a much needed green space.
Every child has drawn a house. Perhaps a sunny day with some clouds, a leafy tree, a family with a dog, low wooden fences, or even a car. But in these drawings, they will almost certainly draw a simple rectangle with a gable or hip roof. This archetype of the house appears in virtually all cultures, and even today many architects use it for contemporary projects.
In addition to the primary function of draining rainwater and snow, and thus protecting the building from the weather, roofs can be an important aesthetic device for composing a project. In modern architecture, waterproof roof slabs emerged as a popular alternative, but sloping roofs have continued to captivate both clients and architects. In this article, we will cover the various types of roofs and, more specifically, the manufacturing process and characteristics of natural slate tiles.
When it comes to attics, we often imagine underused spaces in homes and buildings, such as warehouses or rooms that are exclusively used to shelter infrastructure systems. However, reflecting on the reuse of traditional attics in 19th-century Parisian buildings as housing, which is happening nowadays, one realizes that these spaces can be reinvented and, with a little creativity, they can provide impressive living spaces.
We have seen rooftop helipads, restaurants, pools, and even gardens, but soon rooftops will be catering to a new service: drone delivery. Maida Vale’s Lyons Place, a residential complex designed by architect Sir Terry Farrell, will be the first in the UK to implement rooftop ‘vertiports’, encouraging drone delivery services.
From ceramic tiles and metal sheets for roofs to wooden decks and floating cement tiles for roofing, roofing materials not only contribute to the drainage and protect the lower layers from solar radiation and wear, but also have an important aesthetic function.
Currently, when choosing the roof covering, you can find a wide variety of materials and dimensions, each with specific characteristics, determined by the type of roofing, the location of the project, and its future maintenance.
Review a catalog of options to incorporate creatively into your designs, below.