Post 328 – by Gautam Shah
Roofs are most articulated elements of a building. Roofs form the skyline of a building, visible from a distance as a silhouette during twilight hours. A roof distinguishes a building among many other roofs. Roofs are single entity form covering nearly whole of structure, like for a pyramid or Pantheon. A roof could have a single domineering form, by height, mass or surface treatment. The roof mass is bloated by adding translucent forms like a belvedere, Chhatri, Turrets, galleries, Cupola, etc. These forms of varied sizes and shapes create an undulated edge over the roof.
Roofs have been important as they form a resonant skyline. Historical buildings formed a vibrant horizon by being on important terrain, large scale, height and the form. There are very few examples where a single roof structure (Parthenon) was created for dominance. Otherwise, several buildings forming a complex or an estate composed a variegated skyline. Such outlines were not pre-planned but evolved through deliberate additions and alterations over a period of time. In many cases the deliberations preceded with case study through on site sketches and scaled models.
The scenario has changed during the last century due to aircraft and satellites. Both have provided means of observing buildings from higher elevations. This has been a key factor in shape forming of not only high rise buildings but also large footprint structures. The composition of roofs (and entire structure) in making the skyline and silhouette, is pre-visualized for different atmospheric conditions, planned illuminations, and viewing positions including ground and air.
These add-on architectural elements are rarely functional entities, or are connected with the main Interior spatial character of the building. There is an attempt to articulate their scale, sequencing, proportioning, scaling, etc. Well-designed buildings executed in one era usually have such well integrated roof elements. The integration is seen in ‘picturesque’ views from all sides and corners.
Roofs that are well integrated with the architectural layout of the building have a mutual affinity. One of the first such building is Hagia Sophia of Istanbul. It was the extra ordinary scale that perhaps did not allow any room for manipulation or decorative improvisations. Whatever one, perceives from outside, is the exact reflection of the interior space arrangement.
A similar roof related truthfulness is seen in many of the Gothic structures of an earlier era. In later periods the roofs have been loaded with many decorative elements, statuettes, etc. All Gothic roof structures rise up from their vertical elements, in one continuum.
Roofs, have been axially-balanced compositions, and also disarrayed mass arrangements. In case of religious buildings where the attention is focused, the building and its roof follow the same system. The composition could be single, multi-axial or cross axial, yet a balance roof emerges. This is also true of Government buildings, courts and other public buildings.
Roofs of single form covering the entire building have been used as the structure to seen and recognized from a distance or sky. Airports, Railway stations, Stadiums, etc. have single roof mounts. Space station workshops, aircraft hangers, large industrial plants have large functional space, enforcing single roof structures.
Palaces and temples have very large vertical surface extent, and as a result the need for a bloated roof entity is not very strong. The roof lines are though undulated in various configurations. These structures have mixed roof structures, though well arranged but not in any formal or axial manner.
Roofs, in many buildings are, sloped structures. Sloped roof stretch the vertical face it abuts. This characteristic has been used in many buildings. Roofs have frontal slopes or side slopes accompanied by triangular pediment on main face.
Modern buildings have roofs that acutely technical facilities. Few buildings have roof top public-use facilities like a view deck. But buildings’ skylines are designed to form a distinguishing entity in a mass of urban developments. Buildings are conceived to be visible and recognizable identity, in all types of weather and lighting conditions.