Classes with a view

The roof of Di Tella University’s main building, located in a residential area of the City of Buenos Aires, is a particular case of green roof. Extending across 1,600 square meters and built on the rooftop of an existing five-story building, the new recreational area is only partly implemented as a technical green roof: 700 square meters meet the general technical requirements of a green roof and 900 square meters offer diverse open spaces with no growing medium or plant cover.

Green Roof Di Tella University in Buenos Aires
Photo Credit: Javier Agustin Rojas

Here, the key objective was that of providing more available open public spaces for the students and the university’s staff, with the bonus of a breathtaking 360 degree view of the city.
Opened in 2013 as a new “campus”, the site didn’t offer large green spaces or open areas for gathering because its central space was occupied by parking lots. In the process of changing this situation and given the urgent need for green areas, some professors of the Architecture and Landscape Architecture’s faculties suggested to use the rooftop instead.

Preserving the good

The building was originally erected in the early 1940s and was renovated after an almost 50-year period of stagnation. The completion and opening of the campus took place in 2013 and the new roof became accessible in 2017.  The project for the roof is related to the construction of new master classrooms, administration offices and a restaurant on the fifth floor, which used to be the rooftop in the past, only used for mechanical equipment. This meant that the existing drainage system would be “moved up” one floor, responding to the designer’s main concern of preserving this existing system as far as possible.

The area, which is a rectangle of 90 x 25 meters, was differentiated into spaces that respond to diverse possible uses: relaxing, gathering and an open-air amphitheater. The planting plan is related to this differentiation; the non-accessible areas are covered with a combination of sedum species which have minimum maintenance requirements and provide colors and textures and, conversely, some lawn patches that provide areas to sit and lay down. These lawn pieces are built on the slopes of the gable roof that covers the new master classrooms.

The connector

However, anticipating the need for walking spaces, the architects reduced the area of the gable roof by leaving available areas along three sides of the rooftop and resulting in a U-shaped esplanade. When extending along the full breadth of the larger side of the roof, this esplanade turns into a generous three meters-wide promenade. Finished with concrete tiles and bordered by a tall transparent curtain-wall, this walkway becomes the main connector between the different spots: a continuous balcony opening towards the city, the large old trees and, looking northeast, the splendid Plate River.

Pleasant views

At the eastern side of the roof, responding to the need of concentrating higher loads at the edges of the slab and reducing them in the center, a row of trees blooms in the summer. Wooden benches offer a variety of situations and the open-air amphitheater creates the perfect ambience to rest and watch. Placed in three rows of seven 4.50 meters-long benches, this arrangement produces a great spot to enjoy the views and the breeze along the roof, far away from classes and lessons, at least for a while.
Reaching the highest level of the building, a lookout allows watching the far-away crowns of the urban woods and the river.

Location: City of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Area of the rooftop: 1,600 m2
Date of Completion: 2017
Client: University Torcuato Di Tella
Landscape Architecture Plan: Grupo Landscape-Cora Burgin
Architectural Project: RDR Arquitectos (Richter, Dahl Rocha, Emmer and Morando)
Photography: Javier Agustín Rojas, Cora Burgin, Bruno Emmer