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What’s in a roof?

Over the weekend I stumbled upon this illustrated Medium post by Alfred Twu comparing sloped and flat roofs. The argument is that these two roof types are coded. In this part of the world, at least, sloped roofs signal low-rise “house” and flat roofs signal big city “high-rise.”

I’m not yet convinced of this association with height, or of all the claims made in the article. Did New York City really make the flat roof commonplace in our cities? But the idea that a roofline can trigger certain associations — or even become divisive — is a fascinating one.

Take, for example, Am Fischtal in Berlin. On one side of the street you have, still to this day, homes with flat roofs. And on the other side you have homes with sloped roofs. This clean divide is the result of a supposed “roof war” that took place during the Weimar Republic.

At this moment in time in the suburbs of Berlin, the kind of roof you chose to live under was a proclamation of your political orientation. I’m not sure roofs have as much gravitas as they did in the 1920’s on Am Fischtal, but they still do say something.

Image: Alfred Twu

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