Alex Maclean's Up on the Roof Takes Us to the Top of NYC


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Alex Maclean's Up on the Roof shows us the skyline from the sky by Nick Gallinelli
Every child has dreamt of being a spy, and if they haven't dreamt, they've definitely played "spy" at least once before. If they're one of the ones that dreamt, they also probably thought about a super-high-tech James Bond camera that'd allow them to clandestinely take photos of the poor unsuspecting. Also, every kid wants to learn to fly.

Alex MacLean's latest book, [Up on the Roof], published May 2, allows everyone, especially us who can't kick our doomed childhood ambitions, to entertain our lingering adolescence. Maclean, in his tenth book, takes his plane that he's used to aerially photograph much of the world, and allows us to see New York City from up above? as if it were The Sims. With awesome rooftop basketball courts, mini getaways, horizontal murals, and topless sunbathers, MacLean catches New York from, literally, a brand new point of view.
"You can feel the vibe of a city from the air," MacLean said over the phone one afternoon. "You can feel the direction it's going in... and New York is on an uptick, you can feel it." Trained as an architect, and having discovered his love for aerial photography while in graduate school, MacLean has a quirky gift for giving the "reader" (there are a few words) of Up on the Roof a remarkable look at the city's astounding blend of design, style, and economics. Some roofs have grass and seating, while others have concrete; and some have solar panels, while others have rust. "Roofs represent 30% of New York outdoor space," Maclean initially taught a surprised listener. He then went on to describe how it's an opportunity that not everyone takes advantage of, but should. His next project brings him to Germany, who he says is the world leader in studying and constructing environmentally-friendly and efficient roofing. There he'll be studying green roofs, which are relatively popular in the U.S. and help provide building insulation, along with other things, white roofs, which deflect the sun's rays and keep buildings cool, and solar panel roofing. Using his knowledge, MacLean hopes to help cities across the world maximize their vertical space. In Up on the Roof, the stark contrast of building vs. environment is sometimes similar to the frustrating Never Ending Staircase, and strays from the focus that many would find necessary for beauty in a photograph, but thrives in its idea and what it reveals. MacLean's latest endeavor makes New York City look smaller, but enlarges its function and efficiency. Looking through the book and matching each picture with its listed address is surprisingly entertaining and a bit educational, and is a voyeuristic adventure from rooftop to rooftop. Up on the Roof makes for an addicting addition to a New York coffee table.

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