The World's Most Unusual Rooftops

All you need to know.

July 12, 2022

A ski run and a race track: the world's most unusual rooftops are associated with the observation decks of famous skyscrapers, famous bars, or romantic strolls - the most obvious way to use such space. But there are more unexpected options.

For modern architects, rooftop space is an extra creative outlet. Now you can ski, go for walks in parks, or hold car races. Roofs are becoming objects of modern art and part of environmental technology. Roof architecture is also a hot topic for students' essays. According to essay writing service experts, using rooftops for restaurants, parks, or even study areas will be a current trend in the future architecture.

A Zen Garden on the Roof of a Museum

New York City is a city that "lives on rooftops." The tops of skyscrapers are used to open bars, create gardens, build cinemas, and create art objects. One of them is the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) roof. Originally the top was black and white, but the museum director and curators wanted to create an installation garden that would be a contemporary art object. American designer Ken Smith developed the project. He laid out a peculiar Japanese Zen-style "dry" garden on the museum's roof as a tribute to Yoshio Taniguchi, the architect of the MOMA building.

Everything in Smith's garden is artificial: the trees, shrubs, and stones are made of plastic, broken glass, and recycled rubber. As the basis for the garden's structure, the designer took a common camouflage print from the pants of skateboarders and scaled the drawing to the entire roof plane. From above, the details of the installation blend into the camouflage, which is illuminated by neon lights at night. The garden is closed to visitors, including museum tours, and Ken Smith's creation can only be admired from the windows of nearby skyscrapers. In 2009, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) awarded Smith's work in the General Design Category.

A Ski Resort on Top of a Trash Factory

Bjarke Ingels Group built a ski resort on the roof of the Amager Bakke waste treatment plant on the outskirts of the Danish capital. The complex, with a total area of 30,000 square meters, includes three ski slopes 1.5 kilometers long, surrounded by coniferous trees, cafes and recreation areas. In summer, the roof opens pedestrian walkways, play, and sportssports grounds.

The bureau was originally commissioned to build an environmentally friendly incinerator. However, the architects decided to go further and use the plant's roof as a sports complex and open an exhibition in the building dedicated to recycling. The facility began operating in 2017, the resort a year later.

The plant is like an active volcano - smoke rings constantly appear above it, which remind Copenhagen residents of the new portion of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. Due to modern technology, the rings consist mainly of water vapor, which does not pollute the air. According to the architects, the unusual project demonstrates how much garbage modern society produces and how to make recycling safe and profitable.

A Rooftop Park at Chicago City Hall

In 2000, Chicago officials decided to test a citywide rooftop landscaping project at City Hall to determine how it would affect air quality and temperature. There are 20,000 shrubs, vines, and trees in Chicago City Hall's garden, with more than 150 plant species. Most of them are typical of Chicago's climate and were selected to withstand high winds and drought.

The plants on the roof of the 11-story building purify and cool the air, reducing the greenhouse effect. They also absorb rainwater - the leaves absorb most of the moisture before the water leaves the roof through the gutters.

Sails on the Roof of the Sydney Opera House

The roof of the Sydney Opera House, shaped like huge sails or shells, is a symbol of the City. During construction in 1958, specialists from the British architectural firm Arup&Partners asked the project's author, the Danish architect Jorn Utzon, to calculate the curvature of the roof's "shells." Utzon bent a plastic ruler, sketched the resulting curves, and sent the drawing to London, indicating that he would like such an outline. It took the engineers four years to find a technical solution. Eventually, they designed spherical shells that could be mass-produced. The theater's roof consists of 2,194 sections, each assembled from triangular concrete panels and covered with Portuguese azulejo tiles in white and cream colors. The height of the structure is 67 meters.

The design and construction of the spherical roof was an important milestone in the history of twentieth-century architecture. Jorn Utzon received the Pritzker Prize (analog of the Nobel Prize for Architecture), and the theater building was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2007. In 2000, the roof of the Opera House appeared as the emblem of the Sydney Summer Olympics. The contours of the torch flame in the hands of the athlete running repeated the outlines of the giant "sails."

A Sky Forest on the Roof of a Skyscraper

The 242-meter-high CapitaGreen skyscraper in the center of Singapore is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Its author is the Japanese Pritzker Prize-winning architect Toyo Ito. It is known for its commitment to minimalism in architecture and its desire to design buildings that are as environmentally friendly as possible.

Ito's skyscraper in Singapore is called the Big Tree in the City because the building resembles a giant living plant growing in the center of Singapore. The facade is half-hidden by foliage due to vertical gardening, and the roof is reminiscent of a "sky forest" - there are 40 species of trees and shrubs. In the middle of the garden is a 45-meter high red flower-shaped structure, which "catches" the fresh air and disperses it throughout the building through a special wind tunnel.

Luxury Village on the Roof of a Shopping Center

In 2009, developers built 25 luxury cottages on the roof of a shopping mall in the Chinese city of Hengyang. The picturesque estates, separated from each other by white hedges, occupy an area the size of three soccer fields. Trees and shrubs grow in the yards and along the paths.

The city authorities issued a demolition order, which the developer Hengyang Wings Group refused to comply with. True, selling illegally built villas also failed. As a result, migrant workers employed at the construction of other Hengyang Wings Group facilities have moved into rooftop houses.

A Race Track on the Roof of a Car Factory

The main attraction of the FIAT factory in the Lingotto district of Turin was the car test track on the roof of a five-story building. The oval-shaped track accommodated three cars in a row. The building was designed in such a way that the car, as it was being assembled, went up from the first to the fifth floor, was tested on the roof, and after a successful result, also went down in a spiral. The unusual track can be seen in the 1969 movie "Italian Robbery."

In 1982, the company closed, but architect Renzo Piano, who won the competition to reconstruct the plant, kept the structure of the building, placing the hotel rooms in galleries around the inner atrium and the famous track. Races and fashion shows are now held there. In addition, Piano designed a conference room with a glass dome, known as the Bubble, and a helipad on the roof of the former factory.