Americans generally don’t put much thought into roofs. Sure, they need to be leak-proof, sturdy, and lined with gutters, but that’s about it.
However, in other countries, architects often spend a great deal of time designing or decorating the tops of buildings. Here are eight of the most beautiful and famous roofs from across the globe.
1. Hospices – Beaune, Burgundy, France
People love to visit the Burgundy region in France for the wine, but equally enchanting are the roofs of the Hospices in Beaune. These hospitals and health care facilities date back to the 15th century, and their roofs provide eye-catching patterns of colors and designs.
2. Thean Hou Temple – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Even though this homage to the goddess whose name means “Heavenly Mother” in Cantonese appears to be from ancient times, this temple is only about a quarter century old. Its roof adornments include multicolored tiles, sweeping curves, and lots and lots of dragons.
3. Sydney Opera House – Sydney, Australia
The curvaceous shapes atop this opera house make this structure unique throughout the world. Each of the “shells” are actually precast concrete panels covered by a total of over a million Swedish tiles. The building took 14 years to complete and cost around 102 million Australian dollars — which was 13/1/2 times its original budget. Ouch!
4. Red tiled houses of Old Town – Dubrovnik, Croatia
These roofs look pretty new for a 1300-year old settlement, right? That’s because Dubrovnik was under siege in 1991 and 1992 by Serbian forces, which mercilessly shelled the Old Town and damaged most of the buildings. The city was bombarded because forces couldn’t march into Dubrovnik, which is surrounded by thick stone walls.
5. Olympiapark – Munich, Germany
As the name implies, these buildings were constructed for the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich. The roofs are not solid, but instead are made of a “skinned” material that is lightweight. Unlike many of these other historic sites, you can actually walk up the roof of Olympic Stadium — and then zipline from the top!
6. St. Stephen’s Cathedral – Vienna, Austria
The roof of the mother church of the Archdiocese of Vienna dates back to the 14th century and is covered by 230,000 multicolored, glazed tiles. In addition to geometric patterns, these tiles also form images, including coats of arms and a two-headed eagle. Plus, the roof is so steep that it only requires rainwater to wash it clean.
7. Grand Palace – Bangkok, Thailand
As you can see, the king of Thailand has some pretty sweet digs. While the palace grounds span about 2.35 million square feet, this photo portrays the top of the throne hall (known as Phra Thinang Dusit Maha Prasat). Not only are the adornments complex and beautiful, but each one is chock full of symbolism pertaining to Thai culture and history.
8. Domed roofs – Santorini, Greece
Just because you see a shiny domed roof on the Greek island of Santorini does not necessarily mean that the building houses royalty. The whitewashed limestone roofs are practical because they reflect the sun’s rays to help keep the interiors of the homes cool. And since rain is scarce, there are cisterns strategically placed near the roofs to catch runoff water (instead of gutters!)