Roof Rant

Ok people. Let’s talk roofs.

Since my career in architecture began, I’ve been more and more sensitive to details of all sorts. One which has pained me more than any other are ROOFS. The latest McMansions are the biggest violator of the well-proportioned, tasteful roof. But lately it has trickled down into almost every contemporary residence being built today. Take this design:

WOW! Seriously, how many different roof planes are there? Let’s count:

So that is 18+ roofs. On the front/left side alone. Now I know I’m still a student. But I like efficiency. And I feel the more roof planes, the more likely a chance for a leak. Am I unrealistic? Think about re-roofing this beast of a house. How much would that cost? Any way you slice it, no amount of metal or peel-and-stick flashing on a complex roof will be as efficient as a simple pair of roof planes. And there are so many more examples in our world today. For instance, take these designs:

Let us recall the basic function of a roof. It should cover and protect the building from the elements. So why then do the above designs need so many roofs? Is it a disorganized floor plan which causes such a spastic design? While I cannot explain my obsession with simple roof surfaces, I can say that I appreciate the aesthetic of a steep, plain, simple roof. It is efficient in terms of its function and (lo and behold!) I feel it adds beauty to a building.

Geoffrey Bawa, an architect in Sri Lanka, once said, “the one unchanging element is the roof–protective, emphatic and all-important–governing the aesthetic whatever the period, whatever the place.” Roofs such as in the designs above have given an aesthetic to our period in architectural history, whether we like it or not. And unfortunately, I feel it is reflective of our society’s obsession with physical outward appearance and instant gratification. In some way, our society desires a gluttony of roofs to make our buildings sexy. (It even has an evil-partner-in-crime: the multi-facade-gluttony.)

Consider the roofs, dear designers, in your next project. Take a look at real estate listings for new homes and their associated roof designs. What does it say? How many roof planes are there?

To quote Mr. Bawa again, “The roof, its shape, texture and proportion, is the strongest visual factor.” What does YOUR roof say?

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