15 Butterfly Roofs That Set the Heart Aflutter



Since its invention by Le Corbusier in 1930, the butterfly roof has endured as a dramatic architectural feature.

A modest, gabled 1965 hut on the outskirts of Guatemala City was transformed into an expansive 4,467-square-foot getaway. Blurring the indoors and out, architect Alejandro Paz adhered to the original architectural elements while adding modernized touches. The roof maintains the same angle as the original hut, but reversed, while new modules give the space a new identity. With floor-to-ceiling glazing, the home allows for the residents to take in the Guatemalan forest from all angles.

Popularized in the 1950s, the butterfly roof is an inverted gable whose V-shape resembles that of two lifted wings. We have French architect Le Corbusier to thank for the distinctive feature; in 1930, he proposed it for a Chilean vacation home for heiress and arts patron Eugenia Errazuriz, but she went bankrupt before it could be built. The butterfly roof would become a reality in 1933, however, in Karuizawa, Japan, where Czech architect Antonin Raymond built a home for himself and his wife based on Le Corbusier’s design—a residence featured by Architectural Record in 1934.

The butterfly roof made its way to the States in 1945 with Marcel Breuer’s Geller House in Lawrence, Long Island. Breuer placed long windows under the roofline to let in light without sacrificing privacy, a key advantage of the butterfly roof. Finally, in 1957, architect William Krisel would propose the design to the Alexander Construction Company, a development company that built over 2,500 homes in Palm Springs, California. From there, the butterfly roof spread through the rest of Southern California.

A striking break from flat or gable roofs, the butterfly roof has clear appeal. Take a look at some of our favorite examples below. 

TWA Hotel by Lubrano Ciavarra, INC., Beyer Blinder Belle, and Stonehill Taylor

An abandoned airport terminal at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport was reborn as the TWA Hotel, a stylish stay that harkens on the romance of flying when it was still a novelty. Paying homage to the original architecture of the 1962 building designed by architect Eero Saarinen, JFK's only on-airport hotel is complete with midcentury modern guest rooms, a 10,000-square-foot rooftop deck with pool, and immersive experiences.

An abandoned airport terminal at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport was reborn as the TWA Hotel, a stylish stay that harkens on the romance of flying when it was still a novelty. Paying homage to the original architecture of the 1962 building designed by architect Eero Saarinen, JFK’s only on-airport hotel is complete with midcentury modern guest rooms, a 10,000-square-foot rooftop deck with pool, and immersive experiences.

Max Touhey

A modest, gabled 1965 hut on the outskirts of Guatemala City was transformed into an expansive 4,467-square-foot getaway. Blurring the indoors and out, architect Alejandro Paz adhered to the original architectural elements while adding modernized touches. The roof maintains the same angle as the original hut, but reversed, while new modules give the space a new identity. With floor-to-ceiling glazing, the home allows for the residents to take in the Guatemalan forest from all angles.

A modest, gabled 1965 hut on the outskirts of Guatemala City was transformed into an expansive 4,467-square-foot getaway. Blurring the indoors and out, architect Alejandro Paz adhered to the original architectural elements while adding modernized touches. The roof maintains the same angle as the original hut, but reversed, while new modules give the space a new identity. With floor-to-ceiling glazing, the home allows for the residents to take in the Guatemalan forest from all angles.

Andres Asturias

Built in 1956 by renowned local builder Vito Fosella, the two-story home embraces the wooded landscape with an exterior clad in teak, mahogany, and stone. The roof is tar and gravel.

Once owned by musician, producer, and DJ Moby, this midcentury dwelling in Pound Ridge, New York, was restored to preserve its original architectural elements by David Henken, a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright. Built in 1956, the two-story home was originally created by renowned local builder Vito Fosella to embrace the wooded landscape with an exterior clad in teak, mahogany, and stone. The roof is tar and gravel.

Ginnel Real Estate

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