If you’re designing your home, you will have to spend a lot of time thinking about the best materials for your roof.
While you might think about rubber, composite, or asphalt roofs, there are many unique roofs around the world that will give you a new perspective on roofing materials.
When was the first roof made?
The earliest roofs that were constructed are thought to have been thatched roofs that were made of leaves, branches, straw, or reeds.
Forget everything you know about roofing materials and designs. Read on to find out about some of the weirdest, most striking, and unusual roofs around the world.
Unusual Roofs Around The World
Domed Roofs, Santorini (Greece)
Whether in real life or in the media, you’ve probably seen the beautiful domed roofs of homes in Santorini, Greece, which are usually painted bright blue to make them striking.
These buildings are made of limestone and they’re painted white to reflect the sun’s UV rays to keep the inside of the homes cool.
The domed roofs are not just built this way to look interesting – they’re highly practical and specialized because they divert rainwater so that they can enter gutters and prevent moisture accumulation that can lead to damage.
Tongkonan Roofs, Tana Toraja (Indonesia)
If you’ve ever seen traditional ancestral homes in Indonesia, you’ll know that they’re eye-catching and Instagram-worthy.
The region where they’re found is known as Tana Toraja, and the house design is known as tongkonan, which is an ancestral traditional home of the Toraja people.
You can find these unique roofs in the remote areas of Central Sulawesi of the Indonesian archipelago.
The roofs of the homes are unique in that they’re shaped like boats and they’re built on piles. The roofs are large and covered in layered bamboo, but sometimes corrugated iron is also used.
Seaweed Roofs, Læsø (Denmark)
Can you imagine having seaweed as a roofing material? This is common on the Danish island, Læsø. Here, many homes are made with roofs containing eelgrass, a type of seaweed that has a 300-year lifespan.
Interestingly, with issues such as deforestation that left locals without timber to build their houses, they started relying on natural resources.
Eelgrass is a sustainable and strong thatch. It’s resistant to fire, fungus, and it provides a good level of insulation.
Trulli Roofs, Puglia (Italy)
Found in Puglia, trulli are traditional living structures with roofs that look like beehives. They are popular, found in almost every road in the Itria valley, and are used for various structures, including homes, guesthouses, and farmsteads.
The word “trulli” refers to the houses that are made of limestone. Their roofs, which are conical in shape, are made out of tiled limestone. They are built with gutter systems to direct water away from the roof and structure, preventing them from water leaks and damage.
The roofs were usually painted with an evil eye, cross, or astronomical symbol before being decorated with an ornamental flourish.
Upturned Roofs (China)
If you’ve ever seen pictures of homes in China that have upturned roofs, you’ll likely have wondered how they are made.
Chinese architecture is defined by these homes, which have upturned roof eaves. They were established during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) and were the standard roofing type that was popular until the Song Dynasty (906 – 1279).
Not just decorative, this design increases the surface area of the roofs so that rainwater drainage is enhanced. Interestingly, roofs in the south of China were traditionally designed to be steeper than those in the north for extra drainage.
Butterfly Roof, California (USA)
These roofs are a unique spin on a traditional roof design that became popular in the 50s, in Southern California. Designed by architect William Krisel, this roof is sometimes called a “v” roof because of its shape.
A butterfly roof is made with two adjacent gables that slope inwards towards the middle. This creates a central valley. The roof eaves are angled upwards.
However, there are variations and customizations that can be made to the butterfly house design to further make it unique, such as having gables of different angles or only one gable that slopes in either direction.
Turf Roofs (Norway)
Turf roofs are a traditional roof design in Norway and you’ll see them all over the country. They’re not a new roofing trend as roofs in Scandinavia have been covered with sod and birch bark since the Viking and Middle Ages.
Until around the start of the 18th century, turf roofs became especially popular in rural areas. So, what is a turf roof, exactly?
A turf roof is built with water-tight birch bark which is then topped with soil and sod, which hold the bark together. Modern roofs can include water-protective membranes and anti-root membranes that are made with synthetic materials.
Plastic Bottle Roofs (Ecuador)
Plastic is bad for the environment as it causes waste that ends up in landfills, but some countries are coming up with unique ways to use the plastic. An example is Ecuador. This developing country has been using plastic bottles to build roofs for shelter.
Plastic is easy to source and cost-effective. To ensure the homes can have plumbing facilities, PVC pipes can be inserted into the bottle walls. In the country, some people have used CD cases to make windows, while even their indoor furniture can be made out of PET bottles.
To make a roof, a plastic bottle needs to have its top and bottom removed, before its shape is flattened to make sheets. The material strips are combined to make long ribbons.
These are placed on the top of the housing structure, so that they become plastic thatch roofing. Thanks to automated machines that cut and weld the plastic, this process doesn’t use a lot of energy.
Red-Tiled Roofs, Dubrovnik (Croatia)
The old center of old Dubrovnik, which was filled with red-tiled rooftops, was badly damaged as a result of an earthquake and then a siege of the town in the 1990s, as the Old Town was more vulnerable to attack than the rest of the country. Restoration of the city began after the armed conflict and it was coordinated by UNESCO.
Since most of the terracotta roof tiles in this town were destroyed, finding ones to match them were difficult, so they were supplied by France. The project to restore these roofs cost around $9 million!
While red-tiled roofs might not be considered unique, seeing the mass of these striking red roofs and knowing the story behind them makes them quite breathtaking.
Notable Structures With Fascinating Roofs
Now that we’ve looked at some interesting and unique roofing materials and methods from around the world, let’s explore some roofs that are iconic and stand out as amazing architectural structures.
Wave Roof (Finland)
Have you heard about the Wave House in Finland, which was designed by Finnish architect Seppo Mäntylä? It’s curved roof resembles a giant wave.
The Wave House is made up of curved steel beams that are interspersed with wooden beams. It has ventilation and thermal insulation that’s incorporated into the structure’s design. The design and construction of this house is a blend of glass and steel, which contributes to its contemporary, futuristic structure.
Generally, architecture in Finland is characterized by the use of wood in its construction, so the Wave House stands out while still fitting into the style of the nation.
Casa Batlló (Barcelona)
What would an article about the strangest, most unique roofs around the world be without mention of the Casa Batlló in Spain?
Designed by architect Antoni Guadí, who’s earned a reputation for building fantastical structures, this house is one of his most popular. It’s shaped like an animal, with its roof containing pink, blue, and green colors. The roof is also wavy in appearance.
The roof is made with large scales to resemble an animal’s back, and it has spherical components in the colors mentioned earlier. It contains various materials in its construction, such as ceramic, stone, metal, and wood.
Glazed Colored Tiles, Beaune (France)
In the region of Beaune in France, many buildings contain roofs that are constructed with multi-colored glazed tiles. These tiles are placed in geometric patterns to give the roofs a striking style. Some buildings that contain this roofing material include the Chateau de Coron, Hotel Dieu, and Hospices de Beaune.
The use of these tiles in France goes all the way back to the Middle Ages, but they were reserved for the wealthy. Interestingly, nowadays there’s only one factory that still produces those original tiles. The tiles you see on roofs today are replicas of the originals and can be dated back to the early 1900s.
St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow (Russia)
One of the most eye-catching roofs in Moscow, Russia, is that of the St. Basil’s Cathedral, found in the Red Square. It has a variety of dizzying shapes and colors, and 10 domed spires, each of which is designed in various patterns.
The domes, originally made of tin covered by fine gold leaf or powder, were later renovated – the gold domes were replaced with multicolored domes.
Historically, the cathedral dates back to over 200 years. In 1552, Ivan the Terrible conquered the region of the country and commissioned the church. It was then built around between 1555 and 1561. Legend has it that he blinded the architects so that they would never be able to design the same structure again!
Living Roof, Biesbosch Museum (Netherlands)
Located in a national park within close proximity to Dordrecht in the Western part of the country, this museum contains a roof of grass and herbs.
The roof is built so that the museum looks like it’s been fitted into the surrounding greenery of the environment. To achieve this, the roof contains the same grass and plants that surround the building.
This living roof is sculptural and ecological, and it has a fold in its construction that opens up to a mountain trail and a lookout post.
What’s The History Of Roofs?
Have you ever wondered how roofs came about? Roofing design goes all the way back to 3,000 B.C., when clay roof tiles were used in China.
Greek and Roman civilization made use of both tile and slate in the first century, and by the eighth century thatch became a popular roofing material in many regions of Western Europe.
It was around the 12th century when major advancements were made in roofing systems, and this occurred during the reign of King John in England. Clay replaced thatch as a roofing material because of the risk of fire. Then, 600 years later clay tiles were later mass-reproduced, before concrete tiling came about a century later.
As for green, or living, roofs, these were said to be developed much later, in the 1960s, with countries who were developing their technologies including Germany and Switzerland.
Designs for living roofs have become quite exceptional, and what’s great about these roofs is that they not only look beautiful but they contribute to fighting climate change by naturally regulating indoor temperature.
What’s the most popular roofing material today?
The most popular roofing material in the U.S. is asphalt shingles. In Europe, slate roofs are still very popular.
Is clay a strong type of roofing material?
Clay is very strong and durable, which is why it’s one of the longest-lasting roofing materials, with terracotta tiles being an example of it.
Are living roofs expensive to install?
A living roof can be more expensive to install than traditional roofing materials. This is because its underlying structure might have to be strengthened to be able to handle the extra weight that’s placed on top of it.
While asphalt shingle roofs are popular in the U.S., there are many different types of roofs from around the world.
In this article, we’ve looked at some of the most unique and interesting roofs and roofing materials. From seaweed and stone to stunning domed roofs, these are sure to give you inspiration for building your own dream home.
James Weldon is a professional roofing contractor with many years of experience on the job. He does not only handle large projects and provide excellent services for his company’s many clients; James Weldon also dedicates his spare time to teaching others useful tricks of the trade. Using BuildCampus as an avenue to reach many roofers and aspiring roofing contractors, James Weldon continues to provide high-quality educational posts and buying recommendations for anyone who visits the website.