Crowning Glory: 8 Incredible Free-Form Roof Designs

From the Sydney Opera House to the Sistine Chapel, incredible roofs uplift and inspire.

Eric Baldwin Eric Baldwin

Roofs have the power to dramatically shape how we understand space. As key architectural elements that define volume, atmosphere and light, roofs create openness, security or continuity. They can uplift or inspire. Iconic roofs become symbols of place, from Australia’s Sydney Opera House to the revered Sistine Chapel, moving beyond purely practical considerations and building cultural resonance. The following collection takes a closer look at buildings that have been recognized by the A+Awards and were designed with free-form roofs.

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Cultural and commercial alike, the designs are located across multiple continents and climates. Formed with a range of scales and programs, they each reimagine the fifth façade through form, materiality and assembly. Enjoy these exemplars in roof design, and browse every stunning design in the essential 2017 A+Awards book.

Rope Wave Office by Jing-Rui Lin (Atelier Ten), Shanghai, China

Located in the QSW Culture Center in Shanghai, this office was made to promote creativity, sharing and community. Formed with steel, wood and rope, the design creates a dynamic interior roof plane around multiple spaces.

Sea Song by Form4 Architecture, Big Sur, Calif., United States

Inspired by ocean views and manta rays, the Sea Song project creates flowing roof forms for three private structures. Formed as self-sustaining, net-zero energy buildings, the design includes curving, lyrical forms oriented out to the sea.

Löyly by Avanto Architects Ltd, Helsinki, Finland

Inspired by sauna bathing and culture, Löyly was made as a public sauna space for year-round use. A free-form wooden “cloak” wraps the project with heat-treated pine to provide visual privacy and areas for people to sit and gather.

The Camps at Coos Bay Lagoon by R&A Architecture + Design Inc., Coos Bay, Ore., United States

Sited along the Coos Bay inlet, this beachfront shelter was designed to conceptually link the site to its natural riparian past. The main pavilion includes an angled and sloping roof that reflects the local seaside vernacular.

The Bahá’í Temple of South America by Hariri Pontarini Architects, Santiago, Chile

Inspired by light and its spiritual qualities, this temple in Chile is located in the foothills of the Andes. As the last of the eight continental temples commissioned by the Bahá’í Community, the project uses translucent marble from the Portuguese Estremoz quarries to create an incredible, rising roof form.

Port House by Zaha Hadid Architects, Antwerp, Belgium

Repurposing a derelict fire station, ZHA’s new extension to the Port House boldly expands to the sky. Floating above the old building, the project includes a rippling glazed surface that transitions between roof and wall.

2016 Serpentine Pavilion by BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group, London, United Kingdom

Made to embody opposites like modular and sculptural, transparent and opaque, BIG’s Serpentine Pavilion design was formed as an unzipped wall. As a cave-like canyon, the design includes fiberglass frames and shifted boxes that play with light and shadow.

Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art by SO – IL and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Davis, Calif., United States

Understanding a museum as a landscape of cultivation, this project captures the Central Valley’s optimism through invention and imagination. Created with an overarching “Grand Canopy,” the roof extends over the site with aluminum beams and a rolling patchwork screen.

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