Rethinking Spaces: On The Roof Gives Us A New Way To Rethink Under-Utilized Urban Spaces

sample from on the roof photography series by Josh Katz

When nationwide lockdowns went into effect in March of 2020, city dwellers were hit especially hard. People who live in urban city centers do not rely on their homes for much of anything outside of sleeping. It was fine to have a tiny apartment, because friends were seen in restaurants, at events, at parks. When COVID hit, almost all of these options were shut down, and especially in New York City, people got creative.

Photographer Josh Katz began documenting how quarantined New-Yorkers were finding an escape and “living life” on their roofs. Over spring and summer 2020, he spent hundreds of hours documenting the moments that defined one aspect of the pandemic as a nightly “socially distanced block party.” His project celebrates hope and the whimsical side of quarantine life. All of the book’s profits are being donated to Doctors without Borders.

The power of communal spaces 

One of the most powerful results of the emergence of roof usage during quarantine, according to the author, was the opportunity to actually interact with the people who lived in his building and those surrounding it. According to Katz:

“For the first time in ages, New Yorkers are getting to know their neighbours. I’ve seen so many introductions, often between residents of the same building. This is the strongest sense of community I’ve ever seen in my neighborhood.”

The series of pictures (shown below) give a snapshot into these under-utilized spaces, with the potential to become powerful drivers of not only revenue for building owners, but a form of a community center for the residents who live in them.