WSJ aticle on snow country roof design


Article in today's WSJ about ways architects manage snow on roofs had this striking house by Patkau Architects:

Nov 29, 18 11:46 am

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what do you find so striking about it? I sincerely think they sacrifice comfort and views by subjugating the plan to the exterior form.It's a beautiful object to look at, but not sure about living in it.

Nov 29, 18 11:50 am

Why would e.g. a square box be more comfortable than this? It looks like both designed from the inside out as from the outside in, as far as I can tell. I think they did a great job.


square box, who said that? I also think they did a great job. It's a personal opinion,same with Libeskind tilted walls; to me they diminish the spatial experience, you have to be "aware" of the walls and angles and corners.


I said "e.g. square box", and to me they (the tilted walls) enhance the spatial experience, you become aware of the walls and angles and corners ;)


All good, if we all thought or did the same things would be boring.


The design may have begun as a way to safely funnel snow off the back side of the house and the rest of the design followed? Perhaps the Apple store in Chicago should have hired these guys. No need to heat the roof.

Nov 29, 18 12:05 pm

there's never a "need" to heat the roof, we use snow brakes to protect gutters, but the accumulated snow above acts as insulation - only need to heat valleys to prevent ice dams.


Wasn't the fix for the Chicago Apple store to heat the roof?


maybe? I don't know - but yes, if it's a flat roof you need to heat the drains down. big difference between flat and sloped.


Volunteer - it was both the cause and the fix. The roof was always heated, always planned to be. Heater just wasn't calibrated correctly at opening, and it was a very cold week in Chicago.


Point taken. I am just saying that Patkau might have designed a structure similar to this cabin in shape for the Apple store which could possibly dump the snow near or into the Chicago River without the need for much heat for drains, roof valleys, ect.


Oh gotcha. Haha yeah agreed, but that would require architecture to respond to climate, context, and ecology. What do you think this is, a Utopia????!!!??

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Just a note from a snow country based Architect,  if you're using snow brakes ( snow stops ) you're doing it wrong! Either shed the snow where it won't kill your neighbour, crush your car, damage anything else or hold it on the roof... which is what this home does. This home is like living inside a crumpled up piece of paper and executed expertly by the contractor and trades who worked on it.  ( it's down the way from our office. )

Nov 29, 18 3:50 pm



I dig the bedroom view and the way the window changes the way one sees the horizon.

Nov 29, 18 8:56 pm
( o Y o )

How do you open a window?

Aside from that it's fugly. Not just the shape, look at how they ran the not quite vertical siding on those horizontal bands. No sympathy for the materials at all.

Nov 30, 18 1:16 pm

It's the most "sympathetic" way with this siding and this architecture though. What would you suggest?


The thing I like least is the Dusk-to-Dawn light in the corner above the balcony.

Nov 30, 18 1:54 pm

The photos show the advantage of good architectural photography. The actual house is sandwiched between two other homes and there are houses behind it on a road which gives access to the garage. The house is also very close to the main road from which the first photo was taken. A lot of the houses in the neighborhood are 'mountain modern' so this one doesn't really clash. Lots in the area are around $6, 7, or 800,000 so I guess you can't have everything. Still, the image the photographs convey is one of pleasant isolation. Not so, but I still find the house very intriguing.  

Dec 1, 18 11:11 am

Volunteer I'm always fascinated by how carefully the context is cut out of architectural photography. Sometimes I go on google earth to look for houses and see how much editing has been done to make them look like they are the lone structure in a wilderness. It's actually common and very funny to me!


The article talks about snow fencing, flat roofs as an alternative to sloped roofs because waterproofing has improved, metal roofing, and "folded roofs" which is just some invention to promote Patkau. 

The reality is that cold climate design is much more complicated and unpredictable than anything covered in that article.  There are consultants that specialize in ice and snow management to the point where they physically test roof forms, snow melt, fencing, pitches - which used in combinations in the wrong way can actually cause more harm.  Even flat roofs can get cornices and ice dams from drifts and snow movement that can be dangerous and cause functional issues.  In looking at more pictures of the Patkau project...I don't think it is as bulletproof as they claim.  

I still think the sloped roofs are probably the best way to go as long as cold eaves are managed (heated) to prevent ice dams and snow/ice fall is not directed towards occupants.

Dec 2, 18 10:03 am

A simple and effective way to build in snowy climates, with long historical precedent. 

flat roofs as an alternative to sloped roofs because waterproofing has improved

Fuck historical precedent, they did it that way for millennia because they didn't have EPDM.

Dec 2, 18 10:25 am
Non Sequitur

And it doubles up as wicked sledding route.


Have you seen rhinobond? That shit is awesome!


This is what happens when global warming meets the permafrost.


a great visual example of KISS. There is no way to get struck by falling snow here, functional, effective, economical, sorta whimsical in a hobbit-ish way. Vitruvius would be just as happy as Kelly Johnson.


A-frames are supposed to be making a comeback from the 70s. Here is an interesting variation. Starter origami roofs for the less than super-rich.

Dec 3, 18 1:09 pm

Yeah but that's a fake, it's a Peter Guthrie rendering :)

Just in case anyone else missed the original article; here it is

Jan 8, 19 11:08 pm

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