Mapping the rooftops of the world

In Tuesday’s Guardian (G2 – Arts and Architecture Section, 2 August 2009) a three page article with lots of photos praises Britain’s highest building – the marvellous Hafod Eryri Visitor Centre and mountain railway terminus at the top of Snowden (1,085 metres). With a stone clad steel frame, it was completed recently – replacing a small concrete shack – at a cost of £8.4 million and has quickly settled in to become a natural part of this craggy top. With stunning views and accommodation for staff, it has to withstand winds of up to 150 mph and is closed down through the winter.

Reading Jonathan Glancy’s account of the lure of Snowden for visitors since the 1780s has made me realise that ‘rooftop’ buildings like this are the natural bedfellows of belvederes. Both rise above the hurly burly of life below and have superb views. The difference is that for the former the view may be incidental while for belvederes it is always central.

1781 Below are five more examples of ‘rooftop’ buildings, which are some of those now included in a new photo gallery on this site. The photo opposite is of the Visitor Centre in Dinosaur Park in Utah, but there are many more to discover and put on the map. Why not send in a photo of any example you’ve found in whatever continent? If it’s a true ‘rooftop’ building, we’ll include it in the gallery with a credit! Email the image with a short description to

To meet the criteria they must, as well as having commanding height and views, be well designed, fit for purpose, integrated into the surrounding landscape and able to provide overnight shelter and warmth against the cold. A tent or overnight snow-hole is ruled out whatever its position!

1. Dinosaur Park Visitor Centre, Utah USA [1,530 m]
2. Eco house, Isle of Mull Scotland [100 m]
3. Mountain grass house above village, Simien Mountains, Ethiopia [3,900 m]
4. Frontier post shelter on the ‘Rooftop of Africa’ ridge (used in civil war) [4,400 m]
5. Shack with weather vane above Amari valley overlooking Psiloritis, Crete [c 700 m]

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