Roofs are for People

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Bernard Rudofsky is well known for his book Architecture without Architects, but he also wrote that Streets are for People. Perhaps the same thing can be said about roofs.


After all, we now make roofs green for people, why not make them really useful as well? In 1957 things were rough in the streets in New York; the Jets and the Sharks were giving Officer Krupke a really hard time, simply because they had nothing to do. Mechanix Illustrated had a good idea:


THE scene is your city on a sticky, sweltering twilight in midsummer. Lights are beginning to wink on and kids are starting to gather in the streets after the evening meal.

A few years ago this was the danger hour in your city. You remember it well—the nightly muggings would begin about now and young girls would be afraid to venture out alone. Beatings were commonplace and gang wars, fiercely fought with knives and zip-guns, were a frequent occurrence. But things are different now.

Look at the kids emerging from their homes. Instead of congregating at the candy store and pool parlor hatching * up new forms of violence out of boredom, they are now heading for the center of the block. They funnel into a large entrance and are swallowed up inside.

Follow them. They tile into elevators and are whisked upstairs. The doors open and they step into a fantasy land.

There, a few yards from the tenements where they live, on their very roofs, in fact, is a regulation-size baseball diamond with real springy turf! But the kids aren't interested just now—they played ball all afternoon. Instead, they enter the locker room and in a few minutes are cavorting noisily in a big, broad and very cool swimming pool. Afterwards, they troop onto the ball field, where chairs have been set up, and watch a movie under the stars.

What's it all about? "This magic land for kids doesn't exist in my city," you say. No, it doesn't—yet!


Does the idea intrigue you? It should because teen-age terrorism is costing you many hundreds of additional tax dollars every year, not to mention the hours of worry for the safety of self, family and property.

Already a million youngsters get into trouble with the police every year. The Juvenile Delinquency Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee has just made the startling prediction in a report that by 1960 the figure will skyrocket to 2,250,000!

Listen again to the authorities: "If communities throughout the nation provided more wholesome recreational facilities for their young people, delinquency could be curtailed." This comes from FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover and his conviction that recreation is a big answer is echoed by judges, child guidance experts and police officials from coast to coast.

MI believes the obvious solution is in rooftop playgrounds. No miracles of engineering are needed. Technically, with the know-how we possess right now, no insurmountable problem exists. Declares Henry Kohler, a prominent New York architect who is editor of the Bulletin of the Brooklyn chapter of the American Institute of Architects: "Certainly it can be done. Even though roofs are of different heights, even though some buildings are narrower than others, there is no limit to the size of the playground which can be built. You can build a gym up there or you can construct a center big enough for a baseball field, grandstand included!"


More in Modern Mechanix

More great ideas from the Wayback Machine
Quote of the Day from 1953: Why No Sun Power?
Closer Than We Think: Rejuvenated Downtowns
The Big Squirt Will Save Us
New Town in Canadian Wilderness by Philip Johnson
Syd Mead Still Cranking Out Visions of the Future

Roofs are for People
Bernard Rudofsky is well known for his book Architecture without Architects, but he also wrote that Streets are for People. Perhaps the same thing can be said about roofs.

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