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In Search of an Iconic Roof Top

August 5, 2012

Today developers and architects somehow all aspire to crown their architectural creations with an iconic rooftop.  But if we look back through the history of architecture that phenomena existed as far back as the 15th century. In 1432 Brunelleschi crowned the Florence Cathedral with a magnificent self-supporting dome. Michelangelo’s St. Peter’s dome is the iconic crown of the 16th century, while Christopher Wren’s classical dome above St Paul’s Cathedral was built in the 18th century.

In the early 20th century with the rise of the skyscraper, iconic rooftops took a dramatic turn. Tall buildings could be seen from great distances. Developers and corporate owners now felt it necessary that they distinguished their towers by creating unique rooftop crowns. In 1913 the 57 stories Woolworth Building built a Gothic style iconic rooftop, but the most famous iconic rooftop of that era is the 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower. To celebrate their 75 anniversaries the Chicago Tribune newspaper conducted an International competition to design the most beautiful office building in the world. The historical significance of this competition is the entry submitted by Walter Gropius, which later spearheaded the modern movement and ignited architects to create distinctive rooftops to enhance their simple architectural facades.

Searching for an Iconic rooftop is not an easy task. Here’s one of my ventures into the foray. Freehand sketching proves to be quick, efficient and progressive.

  1. Beautiful sketches of some iconic buildings. As you say, freehand sketching can be an effective way to spur creativity. Cheers.

    • It’s a long journey to create an iconic roof top. Architects will tell you it is perhaps their most challenging endeavour.

  2. Daphne Yee Man permalink

    I think freehand sketching is the most natural and direct way to connect your soul and mind with your hands which produce physical visuals for communication.

    Errol, thanks for sharing your architectural creative process.

    • We are all blessed with creativity. Finding that spirit requires determination and inner self inspiration. You’ve got what it takes when you are connecting your hands with your mind and soul: keep plugging and never give up.

  3. Michelle Yang permalink

    Always learn a lot from your freehand sketches and the sketch’s stories. Thank you.

    • We always learn from one another through our understanding and communications of our culture and nature from which our individual skills develop.

  4. Pauline Lai, Cheng April, Susan Chan, Carollsena Chow, DingDing Christine, Terence To and Tony Tang, all of Facebook like my post.

  5. Reblogged this on Archi Blog.

  6. Adeline Chan, William Shum, Voon Yow Choong, John Glassco, Scott FitzPatrick, Art Murray, Yenfei Chan, Sugar Chitrakar, Aim Husin, Daikatse Thy, Danielle Hugh, Ivan Kwan, Steve Scooba Dowling and Yukaje Veng, all my Facebook friends, like my post

  7. Daphne Yee Man permalink

    Iconic roof tops are great contributors to dramatic urban skylines, though the architects now have to think where to place their mechanical and electrical equipments somewhere else 😉

    • Very true! And the architects are so self-centred that they neglect safety concerns that these roof tops pose to maintenance staff. I read sometime ago where the window facade cleaners declared that the Hong Kong Bank of China is the most dangerous edifice to work on.

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