While a roof is the second largest element of a building’s façade, building designers often overlook them as a space for unique architectural expression, particularly when compared to a building’s exterior walls.

One reason for this subordination is that roofs with multiple peaks, varying and steep pitch lines and unique shapes come at a cost and can also necessitate the involvement of one or more special contractors.

As a result, and particularly in the lower-end residential market, the majority of Australian roofs are scaled back in materials and design.

But that’s not to say that building designers aren’t experimenting with roofing design. Below are nine examples of traditional roof profiles including Mansard, Gambrel, Sawtooth, Butterfly, Gable, M-Roof, Skillion and Arc that have all been given a modern spin.

The Mansard: Buddhist meditation centre, Netherlands by Bureau SLA

Hengstdijk-Metta-Vihara-3.jpgImage: Bureau SLA

Made fashionable during the Second French Empire of Napolean III (1852-1870) and still noticeable on the streets of many European cities, Mansard roofs have all but disappeared from the contemporary building stock. But Dutch architects, Bureau SLA, have created one of the few contemporary examples of a Mansard Roof for this Buddhist meditation centre in a rural part of the Netherlands. Photography by Jeroen Musch. 

The Gambrel: The Oak Pass Guest, Beverly Hills, USA by Walker Workshop

Image: Walker Workshop

The Oak Pass Guest by Walker Workshop is more a modern refurbishment than a contemporary remake of a gambrel style roof. Gambrels were commonly used for American barn houses in the 20th century, and this project from Walker Workshop involved an extensive rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the property’s old barn into both a living room and a concert venue for up to 80 guests. Photography by Nicholas Alan Cope.

The Arc: Point House, Sydney by Peter Stutchbury Architecture

Untitled.pngPhotography by Michael Nicholson 

Both the house shape and structure was derived from a sine curve for this Peter Stutchbury Architecture project on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. The ensuing roof is a massive curved form of pre-weathered Rheinzink panels that are joined with an angle standing seam.

The Sawtooth: Carozzi Production and Research Food Centre, Chile GH+A | Guillermo Hevia

CAR_GH_A_19.jpgImage: ArchDaily 

For some a symbol of an alienated workforce and the industrial revolution, for Chilean Architects GH+A | Guillermo Hevia a chance to redefine the design of a modern factory roof. The Carozzi Production and Research Food Centre in Chile takes a wavy spin on the concept of a saw tooth roof which traditionally saw a series of sharp ridges with dual pitches arranged linearly down a factory plan. Traditionally, the pitches were different and a glazed section was placed on the steeper of the two sides to allow sunlight to penetrate the often deep planned buildings. GH+A | Guillermo Hevia opted for transparent corrugated sheets, integrated within the steel roof, to allow natural light to enter the working spaces. 

The Hip: House with a Large Hipped Roof, Japan by Naoi Architecture & Design Office

Photography by Hiroshi Ueda

Designed by Naoi Architecture & Design Office, this house takes a very light driven approach to a traditional hip roof. The entire south side of the roof is a large sky window which challenges one of the major problems of conventional hips which is access to natural light. 

The Butterfly: Paddington Butterfly House, Sydney by Michelle Walker Architects

Michelle Walker Architects converted this two-storey 1880s Sydney terrace house into a light-filled and contemporary space.  MWA used a rather small butterfly roof to define the building’s highest point and to allow light to penetrate through glazed spaces under the gutter lines. 

6d7178e20f658102_5314-w500-h400-b0-p0-contemporary-home-office-2.jpgImage: Houzz

The Gable: The Livsrum – Cancer Counseling Centre, Copenhagen by EFFEKT architects

1117_LIV.jpgPhotography by Quintin Lake

The Livsrum – Cancer Counseling Centre by EFFEKT architects adopts modern materials and a humanising design mantra to reshape the age-old design guidelines for a gable roof profile. It is designed as a cluster of seven small houses around two green outdoor spaces. Each house has its own shaped gable roof and a different function. The houses are entirely clad (except for two entry facades) in the same fibre cement sheeting called EQUITONE [pictura]. 

The M-Roof: M House, Melbourne by MAKE Architecture

12_04-11-2014_1815.jpgPhotography by Peter Bennetts

MAKE Architecture’s M House at Northcote was an obvious choice for the M-roof project. MAKE extended the exiting double hip roof form (M-roof) towards a new rear courtyard and chopped it to form gable ends so glazing could be added and natural light could enter the living space. Photography by Peter Bennetts. 

The Skillion: Angophora House, Sydney by Richard Leplastrier

Photography by Michael Nicholson 

This is a modern take on skillions because it is one of the latest designs by the king of skillions, Richard Leplastrier. Typical to Leplastrier’s style, all three pavilions and bridging corridors at Angophora House feature a different pitch and sized skillion roof. Each corrugated sheet is oriented according to solar access as well as the site’s prevailing breezes and views of the surrounding landscape.