A drawing of a West Village penthouse designed by Ghiora Aharaoni Boyoun Kim/TASCHEN

A new book gives a birds-eye-view of lush rooftop spaces around the world.

As urban space grows denser, and development stacks upon itself in layers and shoots up beanstalk-like from the ground, more and more people will have friends in high places.

The new book Rooftops: Islands in the Sky by Philip Jodidio (TASCHEN, $70) is an illustrated atlas of some of the most stunning high-up spaces in the world, from towers that double as vertical forests to expansive rooftop vegetable gardens to sunny, cozy perches atop private homes.

The views from these spots are the views of birds and kings. Greenery is a common element, visually tethering these rooftops to the earth below. Windows and balconies abound. The projects vary greatly in scale and style, ranging across continents and coasts. Each is described in English, French, and German, and accompanied by photographs or colorful contemporary illustrations by Boyoun Kim.

Rooftops: Islands in the Sky, Boyoun Kim and Philip Jodidio
A drawing of the south-facing roof terrace of New Ludgate, designed by Gustafson Porter London. “A curvilinear white Corian bench provides generous seating. Its form wraps around the edges of the terrace, growing in height and allowing ample soil depth for the intensive planting scheme.” (Boyoun Kim/TASCHEN)

The economic case for putting rooftop space to work is strong. Transformed into a garden, bar, or dining space, what was once an overlooked area for junk “suddenly assumes a new value,” writes Jodidio. And there are ecological advantages, as well, Jodidio adds: “A layer of earth and a flourishing tree planted 200 meters off the ground protect and shelter interior spaces from devilish heat gain or loss.” The initial investment of installing a green roof may pay off in lower energy bills and a healthier environment, as well as aesthetic cachet.

The Guzman Penthouse, by LOT-EK, “was created by the transformation of a mechanical room and the addition of a compact bedroom with a patio on top of it, the whole on a roof just below the Empire State Building on 31st Street in Manhattan.” Truck containers, refrigerators, and newspaper dispensers served as construction materials. (Paul Warcol/TASCHEN)

The images here are pictures of luxury—of boundary-pushing and impeccable design that is also very expensive. But Jodidio writes that the rooftops we see serve a public purpose, as well. They expand the urban imagination and open new vistas on the use of space in an ever-denser world. The rooftop, Jodidio writes, “is a place for new optimism in the burgeoning global city, a refuge and a hope, an island in the sky from which to look down on the earth.”

Rooftops: Islands in the Sky, $70 from TASCHEN.

The original steel dome of the Fichtebunker, built in 1876 as a gasometer (gasholder) to supply the lanterns of Berlin, “inspired the radial design of the new apartments and gardens” by verde-galtengestaltung. (Cord Schlegelmilch/TASCHEN)
The unusual configuration of this rooftop design for one of JDS Architects’ Hedonistic Rooftop Penthouses in Copenhagen “stands out from its more ordinary neighbors and illustrates the ways that the tops of buildings can become an integral part of a city.” (Julien Lanoo/TASCHEN)
A drawing of the Museum Tower Roof Garden by François de Menil in New York City. (Boyoun Kim/TASCHEN)
Ray 1 house in Vienna, designed by Delugan Meissl, was “imagined as a ‘permeable border zone’ between the earth and the sky.”  (Boyoun Kim/TASCHEN)

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