An Architect’s View of a Rooftop

ROOF on theWit, photo courtesy of The Johnson Studio at COOPER CARRY

ROOF on theWit, photo courtesy of The Johnson Studio at COOPER CARRY

Outdoor space is a premium in New York City, and many other urban centers.  When the city is pushing against you with its sounds and smells – or possibly physically pushing you with the crowds – and you no longer have enough street-level space to create a refuge, the only place to go is up.  Rooftops give you a way to be outside, while still sheltered from the city.  

These high-flying plots of real estate are coveted for their views, food, and drink, but what about the unique design elements that go into creating them? We talked to Ray Chung, Director of Design at The Johnson Studio at COOPER CARRY, an architecture and design firm, about what creates a truly amazing rooftop space.

First, space planning.  The layout of the rooftop is extremely important as it has to take advantage of the best views and at the same time leave enough room for circulation.

Second, first impressions.  First impressions are key and one of the most important moments that defines a rooftop bar’s personality is the first view coming off the elevator.  You need a theatrical reveal. 

Third, comfort.  Rooftop bars are harder to get to than street-level bars, and people usually come to settle in and stay longer.  It’s important to have comfortable seating areas, weather control, a sense of life, and an element of intrigue that you would not be able to experience on the ground.

ROOF on theWit, photo courtesy of The Johnson Studio at COOPER CARRY

ROOF on theWit, photo courtesy of The Johnson Studio at COOPER CARRY

The professionals at The Johnson Studio AT COOPER CARRY are expert at creating visual and sensory experiences in their designs, so we asked them to come up with their ultimate list of rooftop bars and lounges around the world that display elements for “a truly amazing” rooftop experience.

 

  • Bookmarks Rooftop Lounge at the Library Hotel allows guests to get prime views of old New York City buildings.  You are up close with early 20th century architecture that is everywhere in Manhattan, but rarely noticed when you’re on the ground.
    Ray Chung, Director of Design

 

  • You might be hard-pressed to find a better view than Sir Elly’s Terrace at The Peninsula in Shanghai.  The 270-degree view gives you a panorama of the Huangpu River, Suzhou Creek, and Pudong Skyline.  The bar back is against the roof edge so you can sit and enjoy the view facing out – they use a lower glass railing, which gives you a completely unobstructed view.
    Hongying  Tan, Staff Architect

 

  • ROOF on theWit enhances its Chicago view with a creatively designed space.  Fire features, back lit liquor bottles, and private tables that feel like you are cantilevered over the city give the roof a magical feel.
    Brian Finkel, Associate Principal

 

  • Quinto La Huella in Miami has a generous, ambling feel to this space, like being at a swanky garden party.  Well-lit greenery and a strategic use of trellises provide cover from both the Florida sun and the massive buildings around you.
    Ray Chung, Director of Design

 

  • The rooftop Café at the Tate Modern in London overlooks the Thames and gives you a panoramic view of London.  You can view the old architecture of St. Paul’s Cathedral juxtaposed with the modern Millennial Bridge.
    Anita Summers, Associate Principal

 

  • Being on a New York City rooftop gives you this special pleasure of feeling part of the city, but at a distance.  You won’t find this feeling at a better place than Bar SixtyFive at Rockefeller Center.  The terrace is surrounded by glass walls, giving guests the feeling of levitating above the center of Manhattan.
    Ray Chung, Director of Design

 

  • The Standard Hotel in Downtown LA has whimsical, pop-art decorations that create a very distinct environment.  In the evenings they even project old movies on the Pegasus building across the street that makes the experience unlike any other. The movies become complete unique décor.
    Ryan Smith, Architect