Sunday 30 June 2013

Back on the roof

In a previous post on this subject, I talked about the possibilities for developing London's unused flat roof areas.  I think this is a hugely underused resource and when the Forgotten Spaces competition came around, I couldn't help but submit an entry to demonstrate, (if only to get it off my chest).

Our entry for the Forgotten Spaces competition 2013

The proposals were for a hydroponics roof-garden on an institutional building, somewhere that could produce fresh fruit and vegetables for the restaurant below, and where staff and visitors could come up to chill out, or even hold meetings; a park less than 20M away.  The site chosen was the RIBA headquarters on Portland Place.  They typically have lots of spare space, a good place to start, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Roofs = weather proofing and services only? 

It's unfortunate that in so many cases, the roof-scape of a building project is not considered a key part of the design.  In the Architectural press, the latest and newest projects often tend to hide any reference to their roofs and when they do, they normally are given a token bit of greenery.

Extract from the AJ 30 May 2013, for example.
But with Google and Bing maps, and the fun new software which comes with our iPhones, our citys' roof-scape can no longer hide.  

This screen grab over Wandsworth, London helps to illustrate how hospitals, health clubs, schools, industrial, institutional buildings and housing blocks appear to offer the most potential for roof-scape development.  

There's even more on offer over the City of London.

For roof top developments, there's lots of examples and inspiration to work from.  The competition proposals for the RIBA (above) worked on the basis that the installation would be accommodated within limited loadings of the roof plate of 0.75kN/m2, with localised supports for the tanks or larger plants as required. 

Roof top hydroponics and aeroponics system using rain water harvesting
to supply the restaurant below with fresh fruit and vegetables.

The initial idea came from examples in New York.  More installations like these would transform any concrete jungle and could make great destinations for people to escape to for a quick work break, or to chill out in on an evening.

Another example like this in New York adds vibrancy to the city and
suddenly draws attention to the unused flat roof areas around.

Rooftop bar in New York
Some other cool uses to draw from are obvious activities like cinema, bar, pool etc., made more fun from their elevated location...

Roof top pool, Singapore, with an amazing infinity edge.

The rooftop cinema Melbourne.  Imagine if the film was projected on a neighbouring building though...
Or try to take the roof off a building with an impromptu gig.  (The building and surroundings U2 chose in LA in 1987 could have staged a whole festival).

Built roof development projects generally seem to fall in to two types:  
  • Expanding and adding value to a building with smaller installations, or
  • Adding an entire additional floor over the original building 

Expanding a building by adding smaller installations on the roof, or building an entire new floor.

Some neat examples I can think of include the use of playground space on the roof of the Montessori School Fuji Kindergarden in Tokyo, and the ArtBox extension to Furzedown Primary School, in London SW17, even if I do say so myself :)  

Montessori Kindergarden School, Tokyo uses the roof as play ground space in a tight urban site.  

The ArtBox at Furzedown Primary School, London SW17

Please check out our Pinterest board and share your thoughts, ideas and examples of work.


  1. Maximizing the space and making use of flat roofs for something useful like putting up green roofs is, indeed, a great idea! But before deciding to do any of these, be sure to coordinate with roofing contractors to ensure that the roofs are made to handle the added weight. And make sure that these green roofs would, indeed, serve as a relaxing oasis in the middle of a hot and busy city, and not a cause of any accident.
    Hugh @ RoofXperts

  2. A penthouse isn’t the only thing you can put up there. Some have converted it into a garden for entertaining guests and holding events, but then again, one must really consider what they will plant to maintain the green facade of the whole place. Putting an artificial turf would be a good idea, as they require less maintenance than actual grass. While you can set up an area for plants to grow, do not expect a tree to survive on rooftops. That’s just destructive to the tree as well as to the building.


  3. Green roofs have a lot of benefits not only for the environment but also to the property owner. They have the amazing ability of maintaning average temperature inside that equates to lower electricity bills. But, as what's already said, not everyone can build green roofs. The structure of the roof need to be considered first to determine whether it can carry the added weight or not. Well, thank you for sharing the ideas!
    Rolf @ Northern Virginia Roofing & Exteriors

  4. I love this rooftop bar area and yeah and you enjoyed the sunset over the skyline. I also want to do my evening party in this kind of rooftop bars.

    best rooftop bar nyc


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