a+u Architecture and Urbanism Magazine

Sou Fujimoto Rooftop Living in Japan

We have collected a selection of buildings – large to small – that creatively incorporate roofspace. Some of these projects use their roofs as extra floor space, while others produce heightened experience.

Osanbashi Yokohama International Passenger Terminal by Farshid Moussavi + Alejandro Zaera Polo / FOA

Forming a pier that juts out into the port of Yokohama, the international ferry terminal has a 430 meters-long (1,410 feet) boardwalk on its roof. The undulating surface – derived from accommodation, circulation flows, and legal requirements – creates a landscape in the middle of the ocean.

Saitama Prefectural University by Riken Yamamoto & Field Shop

This 54,080 m2 university is comprised of single-story clusters which contain laboratories and classrooms. The roof of these low-rise volumes is used as open-air boardwalk connecting the taller rectangular buildings that contain the lecture halls and student lounges. The square pattern on the roof – created by lawn, wooden decking, and openings – resembles the pattern of the rice fields in the area.

Fuji Kindergarten by Takaharu + Yui Tezuka / Tezuka Architects, Masahiro Ikeda Co., ltd

Children at this donut-shaped kindergarten in Tokyo can endlessly run around on the decked roof. Some of the kids reportedly do 30 laps (about 5 km or 3.1 miles) every morning.

Showa Kinen Park Hanamidori Cultural Center by Hanamidori Cultural Center Design Team

Grass and trees cover the 30 by 150 meters (98 by 492 feet) roof that extends over this garden-themed cultural facility. The green landscape is an extension of the surrounding park. In fact, it almost appears as if a section of the park is lifted up by the supporting cones that emerge below.

Secondary Landscape by Masahiro Harada + Mao Harada / Mount Fuji Architects Studio

Finding open space is difficult in the densely packed neighborhoods of Tokyo. Here, on top of a Cosmetology School in Shibuya, Mount Fuji Architects built a sloped landscape covered with red cedar decking. The slope climbs over the existing storage structure and creates a cave-like space for the students to gather inside.

Tsuru Gakuen Yachiyo Campus, Campanella by Tory Murakami Architects & Associates

Floating like a lily pad, a semicircular roof sits on the rectangular wooden classroom. The rooftop – surrounded by organically-shaped railing – is accessed by glazed staircase which, when lit at night, shines like a beacon in the forest.

Izu House by Atelier Bow-Wow

Built along a steep slope the roof-top decks of this house provide the unobstructed view of the Suruga Bay and the sky. The building follows terraced landscape of the site – formerly used as tangerine farm – and offers multiple viewpoints.

House in Yamasaki by Yo Shimada

The residents of this half-sunken house can enjoy the exterior open space among the greenhouse-inspired structures. The relatively-low level of the patio – 1.56 meters (5.1 feet) – creates a connection with the rest of the neighborhood at ground level.

House before House by Sou Fujimoto

Nine white cubes are stacked together to form a cluster of rooms around a small courtyard. Some of the exterior staircases lead to the interior spaces of these boxes, while others lead to the terraces on top of the boxes.

Earth-ing House by Nobuhiro Tsukada Architects

The center of this rectangular house is filled with earth up to 4.3 meters (14.1 feet) above the ground. Looking up through the skylights, the residents can see trees as well as the sky.

Kumagai House by Koji Hisano

The main, single-story, volume of this house is sunken 1.4 meters (4.6 feet) into the ground. This low (1.87 meter or 6.1 feet) roof can be used as a playground. Coupled with the three-story tower, the house is a conspicuous landmark within an otherwise nondescript neighborhood.