Rooftop Refuge

Our proposal was selected as winner of the RIBA Journal/ Norbord – Raise the Roof competition 2019, which asked for an imaginative response for innovative new rooftop uses, constructed from lightweight timber panels.

The increase in homelessness is one of our society’s major challenges. The problem is exacerbated in winter, when cold weather makes rough sleeping dangerous. Our proposal aims to provide comfort and security for rough sleepers in winter months in a flexible, rooftop shelter which would be funded by summer use as a bar. 

Our site is a 1980‘s brick building, located on the bank of the river Thames in Kingston, home to a mix of uses – restaurants at the base, retail in the middle and offices above. The flat roof is underutilised and provides an opportunity for creative appropriation.

Coloured bright pink with a saw-tooth roof the building has a distinct identity on the Kingston horizon.

In the summer, the pavilion blossoms into a rooftop bar with views across the river to Hampton Court – a perfect venue to enjoy the sun and a drink. In winter, the building morphs into a place of shelter. With little adaptation, the space is converted to support rough sleepers. The booths are transformed into private bed spaces and additional sleeping pods are inserted. The central area is retained as a social space and dining area, with counselling rooms either side.

We envisage that revenue from the summer activities would cross subsidise the winter shelter. The rooftop position, lit up at night, will be a reminder to those entering Kingston that homelessness is not a hidden problem that can be ignored but a challenge that we must tackle as a society with understanding and creativity.


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