When designing an outdoor space over structure – be it a parking garage or residential units – it can be difficult to create something as enriching as an outdoor space at ground level. At Loft Six Four we have developed a guiding philosophy that aims to address this challenge. We refer to our goal as creating “immersive” rooftop amenities and outdoor living experiences.
An immersive rooftop experience is crafted by a commitment to some basic principles. Let’s explore some of these principles, why they matter, and how they can help your projects become more experiential.
3 Principles for Creating Immersive Rooftop and Outdoor Amenities
1) Design for experiences, not amenities.
To achieve a truly immersive space it is critical to go beyond providing a checklist of the latest popular amenities. Especially if you want to stay relevant, you need to create experiences for people. By focusing on designing first for people’s experience you can get the overall space right and then plug in the appropriate amenities where they make the most sense.
For example, don’t just put a circular spa in the center of the space and call it good because your market research says spas are a good idea. Consider how people will want to use the spa. Should the spa be organized into sections to accommodate multiple groups? Can it be raised and located closer to the edge of the rooftop to avoid feeling like a fishbowl? What will enhance the experience?
When planning your space, be sure to make it multi-functional. Don’t just design for one use. Make it flexible and easy to imagine various activities in the same location with different sized groups. At the same time, take care not to create a space so flexible that it becomes useless or lacks character. The best way to strike this balance is to think about the people who will use the space and the experiences they want to have.
When you design for experiences you’ll see great results. The rooftops will actually get used instead of just being a selling point at the beginning of a lease. People will start interacting and building community, which will make tenants more likely to stay longer and be happier.
Your rooftop can be somewhere where people want to be. It can be a place that everyone looks forward to visiting. You’ll achieve this by making it a space that provides a unique experience, rather than just a place to cook on a barbecue or swim in a pool.
2) Make a space that “happens to be on a rooftop.”
An immersive rooftop is one that is difficult to identify as a rooftop. What this means is that it is not just a rooftop that happens to have a collection of things (furnishings, fire pits, etc.) but rather a fully designed and integrated amenity space that happens to be located on a rooftop.
Try to disguise the fact that something is on a rooftop and you’ll find that people feel more comfortable. There’s a psychological difference between an accessible rooftop plaza and a rooftop where the general public is not supposed to visit. If the main surfacing of the rooftop is plain topping slab or if there are locations where the waterproofing or air conditioning units are visible, it suggests to people that it is not a finished space. This lack of thoughtfulness and follow through will make people feel unwelcome and no one will seek out your space to hang out. They might get the feeling that unless they are there for building maintenance they are not welcome because of its unfinished nature.
While quality finishes are important, so is the general layout of the space. It can’t look as if the rooftop existed first and later the ownership put up some railing and rolled out some barbecues. A rooftop amenity space should be just as carefully organized as the interior of the clubhouse. If you skimp on the details, the overall impression is going to suffer and people aren’t going to want to spend time there.
Remember, architecture is enhanced when it corresponds with and connects to the surrounding context. Similarly, rooftop amenity spaces are better when they are intertwined with the architecture. Taking queues from the architectural and interior design is a good way to connect the two spaces. It’s even better when details correspond. For example, imagine rooftop pavers that continue into the adjacent interior space, separated by floor to ceiling glass.
Rooftops provide a unique way to experience architecture and the surrounding environment. By framing views out from the rooftop and forming strong visual connections to its surroundings, you can make the rooftop experience part of the city. When you include exterior elements that are typically found at street level the effect is truly transformational. Lush plantings, water, and a balance of sun and shade will always enhance the experience.
3) Create a space that will be associated with important memories.
Rooftops can be very iconic spaces. Just being on a rooftop is an experience. However, the next level for your rooftop amenities is making them somewhere for meaningful life events to take place.
An immersive rooftop is one where people want to host a big event, celebrate their wedding, or impress their clients. Use the design of the rooftop to set the stage for important formal and casual occasions. People should be going there to network, socialize, and connect to their environment. When people are connected and immersed in the space, they will make memories that will stay with them throughout their lives.
As you plan a rooftop space think about what major life events will take place there and make design decisions accordingly. It’s important for our culture to have places where these types of events can take place. When people start to see the space as a pivotal part of their lives they will be committed to its preservation and upkeep. This provides value to the community and the environment.
The more important the space, the longer it will last.
Make Your Next Rooftop an Immersive Experiential Success
In your pursuit of better design and more meaningful spaces, you’ll find creating immersive rooftop experiences a rich endeavor. By designing experiences – not amenities – you’ll build community and make a place where people want to be.
When you’ve mastered the art of creating a space that happens to be on a rooftop everyone will be drawn to it. Finally, by setting the stage for people to make memories there you will make a lasting impact on your community.