SOM

SOM

Activating Underutilized Urban Spaces: The Roof Deck

Synthesizing qualities of interior and exterior, of natural and urban space, roof decks are emblematic of ongoing paradigm shifts in the nature of intellectual work. In a cloud-based economy where people can be productive wherever they choose, the physical work environment is more important than ever for organizational success. Office designs are becoming increasingly diverse, with a new emphasis on collaborative zones and amenities.

Urban settings are desirable for business because they facilitate the production of social capital as people invest their time together. But cities also place constraints on expansion, especially with real estate costs still a priority. The real estate above our heads is strikingly underutilized: for example, there are an estimated 37 square miles of roof atop New York City, or 12 percent of the urban footprint, with only a tiny fraction designed for active use. In the early 20th century, modernist designers championed roof decks in response to the scarcity of ground-level space, but saw them primarily as residential amenities. After a century of changes in the workplace, one of the most economically compelling uses for rooftop space is as an extension of the office.