Architecture Above Us: Raise the Roof, Chicago!

What’s up?

No, really, what is above your head? If you’re like me, you probably never give much thought to the roof on your house or apartment building. Ever wonder why some roofs have a different shape than others? Why some are fancier than others?

Like the rest of your house, your roof is designed with a purpose. Let’s take a look at some different roofs around Chicago and reimagine your own rooftop.

Check out some famous rooftops with an avian guide to buildings around the world in Architecture According to Pigeons by Speck Lee Tailfeather.

Pick up Building Our House by Jonathan Bean and see how a young girl’s family works hard to build their new home.

If you’re looking for something silly, look no further than Cat and Dog Raise the Roof by Elizabeth Miller. Ever helpful, Cat and Dog band together to repair Pig’s house.

In Raise the Roof! by Anastasia Suen, read about a new home built by all, including the family pet.

Take a picture walk through some celebrated rooftops of Chicago. Then, match each picture with its description in the list below.

  1. These houses, called bungalows, are a common Chicago style house that feature a dormer in the roof line and a pitched roof that makes snow removal easier.
  2. This well-known Chicago rooftop in the Prairie style is cantilevered—it sticks out far beyond the wall that supports it.
  3. This city building is ornately decorated with oak leaves and owls to symbolize the learning that happens within its walls.
  4. This historic Pullman building has a hipped roof that slopes down on all four sides.
  5. The roof on this building echoes a traditional Chinese roofline.
  6.  The roof of this building is domed to give those visiting a sense of peace and awe associated with a house of worship.
  7. This iconic Chicago building holds a special place in Chicago history.

Some buildings, like the Chicago Cultural Center or the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as il Duomo, in Florence, Italy, use a dome to add a sense of importance and grandeur. Take a look at both Brunelleschi’s dome and the domed ceiling at the Chicago Cultural Center, then try this egg experiment to learn about the strength of the dome shape.

Want to create a dome of your own? Architects have to create a temporary structure to support a domed roof while it’s being built. Once it’s completed, the structure is removed and the dome is revealed in all its glory. You can do the same using a balloon as a temporary structure and a technique called papier-mâché.

Reflect on Your Learning

  • Take inspiration from your activity and reimagine a rooftop you see. Describe what you would change and why?
  • Take a window walk or walk around your neighborhood. What shapes or kinds of rooftops can you see?