NYC Rooftops: Designs to Maximize Space and Function

September 9, 2013 at 6:58 pm Architecture

By Victoria Benatar

Outdoor space is one of the most coveted features of a Manhattan apartment.  Whether you have a private small rooftop or a large condo or coop rooftop, it’s worth investing the time, money and resources in making the most of the space.

In this article, I walk you through a rooftop project I recently worked on for a client living on the top floor of a four-story prewar co-op. Here we focused on maximizing the usable space on a roof that served multiple purposes.

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The client had recently purchased a 1BR 1Bath unit on the top floor of this 4-story building with an exclusive use of the rooftop.  There was an existing access to the rooftop by a hutch & vertical ladder located in the common areas of the building used for maintenance purposes.

For this project, we had two major limitations: First, there was no direct access from the unit to the rooftop. Second, t we had to develop a private space  leaving the buildings equipment and installations secure and untouched as well as the existing public access for maintenance.

Another challenge was to create a new structure to support the deck without perturbing the building’s structure.

Based on those objectives and limitations we developed a plan that divided the roof in different areas:

1. Equipment and Utility Space

The building’s personnel needed access to parts of the roof where building equipment is stored in order to do routine maintenance check. To accommodate this need, we created a space on one side of the roof’s perimeter where personnel could access equipment without interfering with the private activities of the deck.

2. Private roof access directly from the unit

It was essential to design an entry to the roof that did not interfere with the building’s current structure and engineering.  We created a private entry to the roof from a new private stairway built above the building’s common stairs.

3. Different Spaces for a variety of uses and activities

The rooftop private areas were divided into four distinctive spaces. One was designed as a private sun bathing area. Another was designated as an area for grilling. The third area was open to the air and offered views of the city. The fourth space was broken down between an entirely covered area and an area partially covered by a pergola. We treated each of the zones differently to accommodate different activities:  we left open the area with access to the most beautiful views of the city, while we installed planters to the back and sides of the deck to add privacy from the neighbors by adding vegetation.

4. Engineer new structure to support deck.

This structure had to support the deck without impacting current engineering and structure of roof.  With the help of  our structural engineer, we built a separate, floating structure above the existing roof.  It was essential that no interference be made because we had been contracted to leave the existing structure untouched.

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