A roof is a top covering a portion of any building. It is built out of various materials and various types of construction methods. One of these roofing methods is the ‘butterfly roofing’ which has its own unique set of materials and construction techniques to be built. Butterfly roofing provides plenty of light and ventilation to the building but it’s not widely used because there are drainage problems. 

Butterfly roofing was invented by Le Corbusier in 1930 after which it was recognized and used on a few buildings. The butterfly roof has a very unique and aesthetic feature to its look.

After it was invented, it took a little time for it to be known and used by others, but in the late 1950’s it became popular among the public. Butterfly roofing has an inverted gable whose V-shape resembles that of two lifted wings of a butterfly (that’s why the name). Le Corbusier first proposed this roofing for a Chilean vacation home for heiress and arts patron Eugenia Errazuriz and she went bankrupt before it could be built. 

Later, another Czech architect Antonin Raymond built a home for himself and his wife, he used the butterfly roofing concept which was inspired by Le Corbusier’s design. It got famous after 1950 and was used in many buildings owned by famous personalities. There was a series of developments where 2000 houses in a row were created using the ‘butterfly roofing’ in the year 1947.

One key advantage of this type of roofing is, it allows you to place many long windows to allow light into the building, but at the same time have the privacy that is required. Butterfly roofs are also called V roofs and are associated with mid-century modern architecture. They were used in the Georgian and Victorian terraced house architecture of British cities, where they were also called ‘London roofs’. 

There is one disadvantage with the drainage because the form of butterfly roofing has no gutter so the rainwater can run off the roof only from two locations. Because of the roof lifting up like wings, there are possibilities for the perimeter walls to be higher than normal making it a better option to let in sunlight easily into the building.

There were several other architects too who had used this butterfly roofing design in their buildings like Oscar Niemeyer and Marcel Breuer. A wide range of materials can be used for a ‘butterfly roofing’ construction. Few of which are Asphalt shingles, wooden shakes, and shingles, slate, tiles, concrete, steel truss, Fibre, Asbestos cement sheet and Galvanized iron sheet. 

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Butterfly roofing_©inhabitat.com

There are a few famous buildings where the ‘butterfly roofing’ has been used like :

  1. TWA Hotel, New York
    An abandoned air terminal at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport was reborn because the TWA Hotel, an aestheticstay that harkens on the romance of flying when it had been still a novelty. 

The architecture of the 1962 building, JFK’s only on-airport hotel, designed by architect Saarinen is complete with mid-century modern guest rooms, immersive experiences and a 10,000 square-foot rooftop deck with a pool.

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TWA Hotel_©magazine.xerjoff.com
  1. La Cabanita, Guatemala city
    The expansive 4,467-square-foot getaway on the outskirts of Guatemala City was initially a modest, gabled 1965 hut. Blurring the indoors and out, architect Alejandro Paz adhered to the first architectural elements while adding modernized touches. 

The roof maintains an equivalent angle because the original hut, but reversed, while new modules give the space a replacement identity. With floor-to-ceiling glazing, the house allows for the residents to require within the Guatemalan forest from all angles.

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La Cabanita_©archdaily.com
  1. Restored mid-century by David Henken
    This mid-century dwelling in Pound Ridge, New York, once owned by musician, producer and DJ Moby was restored to preserve its original architectural elements by David Henken, a devotee of Frank Lloyd Wright. 

This two-story home was originally created by a renowned local builder Vito Fosella in the year 1956, which had a wooden landscape with an exterior clad in teak, mahogany, and stone. The roof is tar and gravel.

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Restored mid century by David Henken_©dwell.com
  1. Butterfly House by William Duff Architects
    WDA demolished a 1950s tract home to create a fresh, two-story, 4,898-square-foot oasis with five bedrooms and four-and-a-half-baths. 

A Le Corbusier-style asymmetrical butterfly roof is topped off this Silicon Valley home, which gives the house its distinctive form while creating soaring spaces on the second floor.

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Butterfly house_©minimalselect.com
  1. Ranch house by Scott Delano
    This 1954 split-level ranch on the Chicago’s Nearside was renovated, including raising the ceiling, converting the wood-paneled rec roomand bar on the lower level into the main bedroom, and moving the kitchen into what had was a breezeway and a part of the garage. 

Delano mentioned a butterfly design to suit the abode’s mid-century lines when they discovered that a part of the first roof needed replacing.

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Ranch house_©wharchs.com
  1. Kallis – Sharlin house by Jeff Fink
    Architect Jeff Fink, who focused on restoring homes by Austrian-born architect Rudolph W. Schindler was the one who updated this classic owned by writer Susan Orlean and her husband John Gillespie. 

The couple has previously owned his L.A. Roth house, buying it albeit they lived in NY. Then, they sold it for the Kallis-Sharlin House, known for its butterfly roof—which allowed Schindler to feature clerestory windows, and more light to the house. For the surface, they ordered a custom hue from Behr, channeling the grey-green of a Martini olive.

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Kallis Sharlin house_©dwell.com
Sanjitha Suresh
Author

Sanjitha Suresh is an architecture student from Bangalore, India. She is aiming to become an Architectural journalist through which she can spread knowledge about architecture and make it understandable even to the common man, rather than having it confined only within the field of architecture.

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