Go Camping On NYC’s Rooftops

Go Camping On NYC’s Rooftops

Thomas Stevenson's Bivouac NYC re-envisions how we imagine and utilize open space in metropolitan areas.

Dylan Schenker
  • 26 october 2011

As densely populated as New York City’s streets and buildings are, there is an excess of open real estate that most New Yorkers might not think of during the day to day: rooftops. Thomas Stevenson noticed the contrast in how underutilized rooftop space is for habitation and decided to build his own mini-commune with the open space.

Bivouac New York is a camp site is comprised of five lean-to tents that includes a canteen with a kitchen and library. Rooftops become a kind of urban outdoors wherein people can stay in the city but separate themselves from the hustle and bustle of city life. In fact, since the station has no wifi or electricity, they are virtually disconnected from the world as well. The detachment places more focus on the relationship between the campers and how they inhabit the space together.


The campsite functions as a way of re-imagining and the relationship between indoor and outdoor space. Many buildings in New York have rooftop access but how many people have explored it as a space of extended residence? At the same time, campers are expected to go about their normal daily lives leaving to go to work, take the train, etc.

The entire space can be quickly built and deconstructed making it easy to move from rooftop to rooftop or city to city. The entire camp can be put together in two hours and is made of materials include plywood, rain resistant canvas and recycled industrial felt.

People interested participating can sign up via the project’s site and specify how many nights they would like to stay.

It’s interesting to think of this camping project in light of the Occupy Wall Street’s encampment at Zucotti Park. In much the same way, this re-imagining of how we see public spaces causes us to reinterpret our ways of inhabiting or utilizing them. As dense as any city is, there is still a vast amount of free space than can be used to live in, work within or perform in. Open space becomes more a matter of how we choose to use it in the moment, rather than what it was originally intended for.

Bivouac New York


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