What are these weird structures on the roof of a house?
March 14, 2021 9:23 AM   Subscribe

I saw this house recently and could not figure out what the large structures are built into the roof. Any ideas?

I don't feel right giving the exact location of the house, but it is in the greater NYC area and faces the Atlantic. I took the photo from the beach, facing the back of the house. I wondered if the stacks might be some kind of climbing structure, but that doesn't seem right - there is no obvious way to get out there and climb, and the "handholds" don't look right. I wondered if there might be some kind of communications equipment in there - like a hidden microwave transmission dish, but that seems kind of wacky. The stacks seem much too big to be chimneys. Any ideas?
posted by Mid to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Oh oh oh I know this! They're windcatcher! They bring in cool air from outside and are a form of passive ventilation
posted by shesdeadimalive at 9:26 AM on March 14, 2021 [5 favorites]

Yeah, they look like solar chimneys / windcatchers for passive temperature regulation through the stack effect.
posted by holgate at 9:49 AM on March 14, 2021

I have a hard time believing that godawful architecture also happens to have passive HVAC. No other part of the house suggests such a thing. They are also not connected on the bottom in such a way that air could flow.

Symmetrical, facing the ocean? I’m team antenna.
posted by rockindata at 9:54 AM on March 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'll be the first to admit I don't know how windcatchers work but these aren't even attached to the house. They're mounted on the roof on platforms. Surely to be functionally windcatching these things would need to be integrated into the building?

Perhaps they're trying to escape and start their own life, away from such a fugly home...
posted by phunniemee at 10:10 AM on March 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Random idea, but decorations for a light display maybe left over from Christmas. Those "handholds" are lights. The whole structure looks temporary and there appears to be some over on the left hand side too.
posted by wwax at 10:27 AM on March 14, 2021

Since this is the rear of the house, from the front they probably look chimneys. So, my guess is faux chimneys to fulfill some chimney-envy aesthetic.
posted by ShooBoo at 10:38 AM on March 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Could they be fake chimneys for swifts?
posted by justkevin at 10:47 AM on March 14, 2021

Hm, I wonder if they got a building permit? If they did it could be publicly available.
posted by mareli at 11:12 AM on March 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Might be some kind of retrofit HVAC solution for what looks like a very old house, but due to design requirements of the neighborhood or HOA, they had to be screened. Like an AC condenser, which would only need to connect to air handling units via a couple pipes.
posted by LionIndex at 12:25 PM on March 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you have the street address you could possibly look at the satellite view and see what's inside the structures? Satellite view will be variable depending on light conditions so inside is a bit of a stretch but there might be more clues. The street address would also let you see the street side facing view which might make these structures look more organic to the house.

You don't need to share the street address us.
posted by countrymod at 12:55 PM on March 14, 2021

Response by poster: Good idea to search for other photos on line. I found this street view on Apple Maps (I didn’t realize they were doing street views now). I guess it’s still under construction and maybe these stacks are going to get covered in stone? Fake chimneys??
posted by Mid at 1:09 PM on March 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

The supports underneath don't look permanent; could it be some sort of construction material?
posted by theora55 at 1:59 PM on March 14, 2021

Best answer: The temporary supports and the random pattern of the dots suggest scaffolding. I bet underneath those structures are smaller chimneys under construction, like the one at the end of the house. What you are seeing is some kind of builders paper or roofing material wrapped around to provide protection from the elements. They look oversized so there is room to get people tools and materials around the chimney in the center.

Mortar and concrete will cure differently when it is cold and if I were a mason I sure would like some protection from the wind off the Atlantic in wintertime.
posted by sol at 3:21 PM on March 14, 2021 [5 favorites]

sol has it I'd say.
posted by turkeyphant at 5:14 PM on March 14, 2021

Response by poster: I agree - it seems like sol's explanation is the most likely. I'm hesitant to hit "best answer" - because what do I know! (clearly not much from this post) - but sol's answer does have a certain Occam's Razor quality. The only slight weirdness with the answer is that, judging from the on-line images, these structures have been in place for a long time. But perhaps construction is stalled out or something like that.
posted by Mid at 11:25 AM on March 15, 2021

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