In early 2011 members of Umbrella House began discussing how best to use the common areas of the building. In the spring we formed a Roof Committee to consider developing the roof space for more intensive gardening, rainwater catchment and possible small scale solar.
In November 2011, the Roof Committee recommended to the Umbrella House Board that we hire architect Paul Castrucci to assist us in planning and determining possible uses for the roof.
Paul is a former squatter, co-founder of the Bullet Space gallery and squat, and was the architect for several of the formerly squatted buildings on the Lower East Side that were subsequently developed as limited-equity co-ops.
In February 2012, the Roof Committee met with Paul at his home to discuss potential approaches to developing Umbrella House’s roof. The roof of the building Paul developed for his own home on Rivington Street demonstrated some of the potential inherent in developing a rooftop, including extensive planting, sitting areas, and, at the time, a chicken roost.
House members had previously used the roof at Umbrella as a site for social gatherings; and in recent years one member had been cultivating a wide variety of flowering plants on the roof. However, over the course of several meetings Roof Committee members were most attracted to the idea of creating a substantial garden that would allow us to grow produce – a small scale urban farm – and to build as large a planting bed as was practically possible.
In March 2012, we approved Paul’s proposal for the design phase of our rooftop project. The following July we hired a structural engineer to provide a full analysis of all the issues related to the load of our new roof and to assist Paul in finalizing architectural plans and the scope of work.
By February 2013, Paul and the engineer produced the final set of bid documents and we began our bidding process.
Three construction companies bid on our job. In June 2013 we hired Planet Construction as the contractor for our roof project.