10 Amazing Rooftop Structures

1Fallen Star (California)

When it comes to public art, few schools do it as well as the University of California, San Diego. And UCSD’s Stuart Collection, which dots the entire campus, is seriously top-notch. The latest addition is “Fallen Star” by South Korean artist Do Ho Suh. Yes, it’s a house hanging off the edge of a seven-story building.

“Fallen Star” took a team of engineers and other experts several years to plan and construct. Suh based the look of the fully furnished house on the architecture he saw in New England. It’s even beautifully landscaped. Though the up-tilted floor and seemingly precipitous overhang might deter the faint of heart, it’s totally safe.


2Private Temple over a Residential Block (China)

A privately-built temple-like structure is located at the top of a 20-story residential block in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. A police spokesman said that the elaborate building is built illegally on the roof. The temple on top of the building in Shenzhen’s Nanshan district is believed to have been there for at least three years, local media reported. The structure and the inaccessible rooftop had caused concerns over safety issues among some residents. However, despite complaints from neighbors, the temple only received more attention after a wealthy physician in Beijing was given 15 days to tear down his illegal villa and garden, which he built atop a 26-story apartment block.


3Mountain Villa on a Building Rooftop (China)

Zhang Biqing, a successful Chinese businessman from Beijing, has spent the last six years building a realistic-looking two-story mountain villa atop a high apartment building right in China’s capital city. Who knows what Zhang Biqing, a former government adviser turned successful entrepreneur, thought when he decided to build his dream mountain villa at the top of a 26-floor apartment building in Beijing’s upscale Park View estate.

However, the faux-rock villa, complete with trees, patios, and a karaoke studio, will soon be torn down after a demolition order was issued by the city’s urban management department.

During the six years it took to complete, residents complained about the infernal construction noise, but after seeing the enormity of the complex covering the entire top of their building, they began to worry about structural damage. The mountain in which Biqing’s villa appears to be carved may be fake, but the materials used to make it are reportedly pretty heavy, and threaten to weaken the residential building’s level of resistance. It turns out that the whole rooftop project is illegal, as Zhang never received the necessary planning permission for his extreme dwelling, yet no one ever bothered him about it until Chinese newspapers recently covered the topic, sparking public outrage.


4Rooftop Soccer at Shibuya Station (Japan)

More than just a destination or a name on the map, each neighborhood in Tokyo functions almost like a self-contained miniature city, with its own business district, shopping arcade, and residential quarter. Generally, huddled in the center of all the hustling and bustling activities is a transportation hub, like Shibuya Station. Built as a part of the Tokyo Department Store, it boasts eight rail and metro lines, including three privately operated railways, the N’EX express train to Narita Airport, and a new terminal designed by the famous architect Tadao Ando.

Just beyond the maddening horde and the human scramble, however, is a quieter, joyful existence. High above the Shibuya Station, or more accurately right above it, is the Adidas FUTSAL PARK.

Constructed in 2001 as an introduction to 2002 FIFA World Cup (hosted by Japan and South Korea), the Adidas FUTSAL PARK promotes a miniature version of soccer, futsal, on a 14,000 square-foot pitch that commands a breathtaking 270-degree view of Shibuya. Inspired by a former playground that was at the site before the construction of the transportation complex, the FUTSAL PARK hosts nightly tournaments among adults and J-Frontage, a futsal school for toddlers and children. It’s almost a marvel of urban planning, maximizing a space not generally associated with activities such as futsal.


5Rooftop "Villas" on Top of a Shopping Mall (China)

Can’t find enough space in the big city to build yet another office tower? Here’s an idea: Build a complex on top of a shopping mall. That was the answer for the developers of Jiutian International Square, an eight-story shopping mall in the Chinese city of Zhuzhou. They built four villas — complete with gardens — on the roof of the shopping mall. However, instead of looking for four rich families seeking single-family homes in the middle of the city, they plan to use the mansions to house the mall’s 160 real-estate management employees.

Unlike the previous structures on this list, the villas have proper permits, were built to code, and already have electricity and water installed. The employees that are housed there will get panoramic views and the chance to work in one of the most original office buildings in the city.


6Rooftop Lake (England)

This lake on the Selfridges roof garden in London just opened for the first time since World War II. The lake is dyed green, and they serve cocktails there. In order to give the Selfridges a boating license, there were miles of steel used to reinforce the roof so that it would hold the lake.

After the devastating bombing of the department store in 1940, owner H.Gordon Selfridge vowed never to open the gardens again. In the 1920s and 1930s, the roof, with its spectacular views across London, was a popular place for strolling after a shopping trip and was often used for fashion shows.


7Runway on Top of a Building in Manhattan (New York)

A helicopter landing on a New York rooftop is a common enough site, but why is there a WWI-era warplane perched on a tiny rooftop runway in lower Manhattan?

Rooftops on large buildings are typically overcrowded with functional necessities like water tanks and air-conditioning equipment, so when the William Kaufman Organization built an office tower at 77 Water Street back in 1970, they placed something a little more whimsical and aesthetically pleasing on top of it.

Onlookers in other buildings higher than the 26-story office tower are distracted by the necessary machinery of a runway with functioning lights, on top of which is perched a bi-plane.

The result is magical, even if the plane itself is merely a non-functioning replica of the original.


8Didden Village on the Roof of a Private Residence (Netherlands)

Most additions on rooftops are done for two reasons: a need for additional space and the desire to live or work high above the city rooftops, closer to heaven than to other people. A Dutch architecture firm designed an addition for the Didden family on top of an existing monumental house and atelier. The attic story of the house below extends into a sky-blue parapet. Behind it, two gables of the same color can be seen. It creates a crown on top of the monument. The extension is an example of the growing trend to exploit the urban roofscape for new living and working spaces.

Unlike many similar projects, the Didden Village does not simply offer its owners additional living and sleeping space. It actually functions like a real small village, with alleys and courtyards equipped with benches, tables, and a pool. Shoulder high parapets create the necessary sense of privacy.


9Houses on Top of a Factory (China)

These houses are seen on the rooftop of a factory building in Dongguan, Guangdong province. They were completed in 2011. According to local media, the government said the size of the houses was not in line with the original design submitted, thus the construction should be deemed illegal.


10Upside-Down House on Top of Slovakian Headquarters (Slovakia)

The Slovakia-based headquarters of Strabag is an energy-efficient building – with an upside down house smashed into its side! The European construction company hired artist Erwin Wurm to add his signature work “House Attack” to the outside of their building. Designed by MHM Architects, SKC Bratislava is a modern office building that takes advantage of geothermal heating and cooling and is filled with art. The horizontal tower is clad in green low-e glass and provides office space for 530 people in Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava.


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