Pattern Language of Natural Homes No.117 Sheltering Roof


The most primitive of buildings are little more than a roof. If the roof cannot be felt visually around the home it doesn't satisfy the psychological need for shelter.

The roof shelters if it embraces, covers and surrounds the process of living. Alexander's advice is to make the entire surface of the roof visible, bring the eaves low to about 6’6” (2m) where people gather, like entrances and seats and build the top storey of the building right into the roof.

This beautiful home (right) is a rubble stone lime mortar thatched cottage in Blaise Hamlet near Bristol, England. It was designed by John Nash, a master of the picturesque architectural style and designer of a very famous house in London, namely Buckingham Palace. The cottage, along with the rest of the hamlet, is owned by the UK's National Trust.

The home also demonstrates other external patterns making it attractive such as No.116 'Cascade of Roofs', No.239 'Small Panes', No.242 'Front Door Bench' and No.231 'Dormer Windows'.


This building (right) is the communal kitchen at Tinkers Bubble, a small off-grid hillside woodland community on 40 acres (16 hectares) of land in rural Somerset, England.

The whole feeling of shelter provided by this roof comes from it surrounding people, while at the same time covering them. A roof which is merely a pitched roof placed on top of the living space will not touch you emotionally, as the home (below) built by Simon Dale does.

Simon's home illustrates how the roof becomes an integral part of the of the volume of the building. The degree of integration is demonstrated by an inability to draw a horizontal line across the facade of the building to separate the roof from the living space.

In each of these homes the roof is a major visual part of the building when seen from a distance. For each it is possible to touch the roof easily at the entrance; another test of a successful sheltering roof.


Simon's home (left) also demonstrates other patterns helping to make it attractive, such as No.112, ‘Entrance Transition’, No.76, 'House for a Small Family', No.168, ‘Connection to the Earth’, No.118, 'Roof Garden', No.160. 'Building Edge' and No.172, 'Garden Growing Wild' with many other patterns inside.