How to create a rooftop space in Manhattan, in response to Covid

One of the best features Manhattan has to offer is the breathtaking view that this amazing urban landscape creates. Whether you have a small or large apartment in a building with roof access, or a townhouse, it is worth developing the rooftop as an additional amenity to your own apartment or to your building. This is especially true with the pandemic putting the focus on private outdoor space and the need for everyone to have access to fresh air.

Our town house clients and others that have access to a roof terrace are looking to not just utilize their rooftops but imagine how much of the activities that they perform inside, they could do outside. All NYC architects would agree that roof tops in New York City are seriously underdeveloped, and part of that reason is because owners think there would be too many hurdles to achieve. It can be done; one just has to be creative…

Victoria Benatar, Co-founder EXD Architecture

We would like to share with you this case study where EXD Architecture maximized the use of an existing rooftop on a 4 story pre-war co-op, transforming this valuable outdoor space into a private oasis for the top floor apartment.

Design problem

The client had purchased a 1 bedroom, 1bath unit on the top floor of a building with exclusive use of the rooftop. The only access to the rooftop was a small vertical ladder located in the common areas of the building used to access the roof for maintaining or repairing purposes, so the ladder had to remain in place.


How to climb?

In response, EXD Interior Architects created a penetration to the rooftop from the 4th floor below, with a new set of stairs. These new stairs are located above the building’s common stairs to seamlessly integrate with the building’s morphology. To support them, we attached the new structure around the opening including the existing interior brick wall to preserve the character of the building and its beautiful interior.

How to structure?

For this project, we decided to leave the existing building’s rooftop untouched by a floating platform that would support the new deck. To do so, we used the building’s side structural walls to adhere to the new structure above the existing roof. This strategy created a chamber that not just protects the existing roof but helps to cool down the entire building.

Floating platform to support new rooftop deck in New York City

How to separate/divide space?

On the rooftop itself, we left the existing equipment untouched by dividing the spaces in different zones. We used a custom-design and made stainless steel and wood louvers that allow both privacy and viewing from inside the deck.

A barrier was created around all the equipment for public access, and it also separated the common hallway. We left the open area with access to the most beautiful views of the city, and installed planters to the back and sides to add privacy from the neighbors.

Zones of use

We created different zones that allow for the client to change how they use the roof throughout the day. For example, we left the open area with access to the most beautiful views of the city, while we installed planters to the back and sides to add privacy from the neighbors.

Floor plan of new rooftop space in Manhattan

On these sections, we can see how the interior space was integrated via the new stairs to the rooftop and how the floating platform was installed.

Side elevation architectural drawing of rooftop space in Manhattan.
Side elevation drawing of rooftop design New York City

The result

View to the front showing views, deck levels, and access to equipment in the front of the building.

Front view from new rooftop space over looking New York skyline

View to the back showing stair build-out with covered and semi-covered areas.

Let us at EXD Architecture help you envision your new outdoor lifestyle, and create your own private rooftop experience in New York City!

We love our work and appreciate the difference it can make to people’s lives. Join us in conversation, at Instagram, Facebook and

Blog written by Victoria Benatar and Michelle Cianfaglione, co-founders of EXD Architecture.

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