The rise of urban rooftops

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Vast majority of Europeans reside in cities and, according to all projections, this percentage will only continue to rise in the future. This poses a new challenge for urban planners, as additional housing, schools, and hospitals, as well as improved infrastructure in general, are required to accommodate the growing population.

In order to address this issue, numerous European cities are exploring new ways of gaining additional space. In the era of densely populated cities, rooftops present a precious opportunity for cities to house a growing number of facilities – from green infrastructure to sport and entertainment venues. A growing number of European cities seem to be becoming aware of rooftops’ enormous potential, and are already embracing this unique trend.

The Dutch city of Rotterdam, which has long been known as one one of the sustainability and innovation champions, has recently launched a project which aims at shedding more light on how rooftops can contribute to a more sustainable future.

Rotterdam Rooftop Walk is a 30-metre-high aerial walkway that crosses a variety of the city’s rooftops, from the roof of The Bijenkorf department store to the top of the World Trade Centre plinth, offering locals and visitors a new unique perspective on the city.

The new attraction in the Dutch city, designed by Rotterdam Rooftop Days and the architecture firm MVRDV, will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. until June 24, with tickets costing €3.50 for adults and free for children. From June 3rd to June 5th, visitors could also take part in Rotterdamse Dakendagen (Rotterdam Rooftop Days), a festival weekend with tours, walks, music, and theatre on roofs throughout the Netherlands’ second-largest city.

On their official website, Rotterdamse Dakendagen stated that through putting on innovative and eye-catching rooftop projects, they hope to set an international example when it comes to the possibilities of rooftop use. And Rotterdam can indeed be a perfect location for this new kind of urban design to be explored. Because of the enormous number of skyscrapers that line the Meuse River, particularly at Kop van Zuid, the city is commonly referred to as “Manhattan on the Meuse.”

While Rotterdam might be the first city to come to your mind when talking about the rise of urban rooftops, there are numerous other cities which have also begun to transform their rooftops. The European Creative Rooftop Network (ECRN) is a network of NGOs, municipalities, associations, and business organisations spread across nine European cities. On rooftops, these organisations host cultural events, discussions, tours, and more with the goal of re-discovering the new layer of urban space.

Barcelona, a city situated between mountains and the sea, has limited possibilities for further urban expansion. It is therefore not a surprise that this Spanish city is another pioneer when it comes to urban rooftops transformation. In order to demonstrate how the demand for space can be met by using rooftops, the capital of Catalonia has carried out numerous projects and initiatives in recent years. 

As the urban population continues to grow, the demand for space in cities will undoubtedly keep increasing. Urban rooftops, which are usually under-utilised, have enormous potential which could be used in the future in order to tackle numerous environmental and social challenges in European cities. (photo credit: upklyak/Freepik)