Life at a height. Oleksandr Kumeiko about the peculiarities of the "rescue" of attics

/ Architecture /

It seems that only a lazy person, waking up in the attic, will not grab a pen or a brush. Agree, life at a height with a view of the city puts you in a romantic mood. Here you want to imagine yourself as an artist, poet or traveler. The architect Oleksandr Kumeiko knows firsthand about this special atmosphere. First, he lived in the attics of Paris and Bruges, and secondly, he was engaged in the renovation of attic spaces. Many people think that attics mean overheating, cold and noise. Kumeiko assures: such statements are a myth. With competent design or reconstruction of a pitched roof, the attic will become the most comfortable place for living, working and relaxing.

"You wake up early in the morning, when the sun is just rising, when it is slightly cloudy, and in places there is smoke. In front of you is a simply stunning landscape that takes your breath away. This is where emotions and fantasy come together. This creates some kind of magic." Oleksandr Kumeiko was in Bruges in autumn, as in the same cult film by Martin McDonough. The architect remembered the famous bell tower, narrow streets and a mixture of aromas, devoid of impurities of exhaust gases (a thing in underground parking lots). Living in an attic in such a city and watching sunsets, dawns and night lights from your window can probably make anyone a poet.

The use of high roofs for the construction of residential premises came to us from the XNUMXth century. And although this practice existed earlier in history, it became popular precisely thanks to the famous architect Francois Mansard, who used a broken-shaped roof with windows for housing, that is, an attic. The fashion for attics spread in Paris not only because of the expressiveness of the architecture, but also because of the economic benefit. At that time, the city government levied a tax on homeowners for each floor, while the attic was not considered a floor. Is it rational to occupy attic spaces with apartments and public spaces today? What are the features of life on the roof and how is life in the attic different from life on a typical floor? And, finally, what pitfalls await builders in the reconstruction or design of attics? We talked about this with Kyiv architect Oleksandr Kumeik.

Oleksandr Kumeiko, architect

Why the roof?

Renovation of attics is a promising direction. Oleksandr Kumeiko believes that the entire old architectural fund of Kyiv (especially the Podol district) has great potential. Buildings built after 1900 have a safety margin, which allows both the addition of upper floors and the use of existing attic spaces. But why the roof? Because, speaking of the functional side, attics have a number of advantages over standard floors. Here, the architect has a lot of freedom.

The first and bold plus is the possibility to avoid internal load-bearing walls at the expense of metal columns and create a free layout. "In such premises, there are a small number of planning restrictions," explains Kumeiko, "for example, the organization of bathrooms is unacceptable above living quarters. But in general, you can do anything in the attic."

By changing the configuration of the roof, you can influence the architecture of the building and the character of the interior. The same applies to windows. "The old building already has a certain cut of windows that cannot be broken. And usually these windows are small. In the attic, we can afford large openings, thereby giving the room more light and its owner more freedom," Oleksandr says.

The presence of a pitched roof in the building is an opportunity to get a "house-apartment"

The presence of a pitched roof in the building is an opportunity to get a "house-apartment" with increased comfort. Here you can organize an additional floor with an atrium, arrange a full-fledged fireplace and an open terrace with landscaping. But often the client refuses the attic, citing many problems. According to Kumeik, with the development of construction technologies, the difference between working with a typical floor and working with an attic space has faded, and the difficulties of realizing attic housing have long since turned into a myth. Kumeiko says that today there are no technical difficulties for a designer.

Mansard roofs in Bern. Photo: James Padolsey / Unsplash

Let's dispel the myths

Myth number one: it's cold in the attic. According to Oleksandr, heat loss through roof windows is the same as on a standard floor. The preservation of heat in the room will depend only on the quality of the window and the characteristics of the double-glazed unit. The architect noted that the requirements for roof insulation have changed over decades. "We always lay insulation thickness of 25 centimeters. Such a cake of an enclosing structure has a resistance coefficient higher than the outer walls," Kumeiko explains.

Myth number two: overheating. Oleksandr says that in old houses, the insulation layer of the roof was 80 or 100 millimeters. During the reconstruction, they "forget" to involve professionals, which means that mistakes are made and an ineffective insulating layer is obtained. "Yes, the attic floor receives more energy from the sun," explains Oleksandr, "but if all nodes are correctly completed in accordance with regulatory requirements, there will be no discomfort."

Oleksandr Kumeiko, architect

According to Kumeik, earlier there were many complaints that rain could be heard through the mansard roofs. This problem is eliminated with the help of the correct use of insulation, because it also serves as sound insulation. "I think the discomfort from the noise is more related to the drops hitting the windowsill. But this is solved with the help of materials. For example, instead of metal castings, you can use stone castings," explains the architect.

The next legend is related to the penetration of moisture. But again, according to our expert, rain and snow are not a problem if you take the necessary measures. According to Kumeik, there are technologies for heating the roof and structures for removing snow, but even these are not mandatory. What you should pay attention to here is the heating of the drainage system. "It is not necessary to heat the entire roof," explains the architect, "usually heating is arranged around the water intake points. Thus, at the moment of air temperature change, at the moment of thawing, all the water goes directly into the hole."

Break or build?

In working with attics, there are two scenarios of development of events: reconstruction and superstructure of the building. When we talk about reconstruction, it is necessary to take into account the urban planning situation, especially when it comes to historical quarters. "The building has a certain volume, height, number of floors, the top mark of the crest. When changing the tent roof, you need to take into account all these indicators," says Oleksandr. Among other things, it should be remembered that the "cap" worn on the building changes the perception of architecture in general. One of the main tasks of the designer is to fit the new roof into the surrounding buildings. "In this case, you can go two ways," says Kumeiko, "using the method of nuance or the method of contrast." It all depends on the specific situation. Contrast, according to the architect, is a more difficult approach from the point of view of implementation and from the point of view of the perception of the new form by the townspeople. It is easier to subdue the attic to the existing style. So, in Paris, many attics are made in the style of pseudo-historicism.

Oleksandr Kumeiko: "Putting a "cap" on the building, we change the perception of architecture in general"

Kumeiko believes that it is easier to reconstruct the roof in terms of coordination, because in this situation there is no violation of the urban planning situation: the designer works within the given framework. In the case of an attic extension, other legal requirements apply.

From the point of view of construction works, according to Oleksandr, the implementation of the superstructure is somewhat simpler compared to the reconstruction. "Here we avoid the moment of dismantling, removal of old structures," Kumeiko explains. From the point of view of technical features, the dismantling stage (especially in the city center) is a very problematic story. "You have people walking under the building, and the street is very narrow, where you need to place vehicles for the removal of construction waste, etc.," says the architect.

A view of Paris from the attic. Photo: Nosiuol / Unsplash

Pitfalls and margin of safety

There are general features in the reconstruction of attic floors. According to Kumeik, there are at least two constant factors here. The first - absolutely all structures are subject to complete replacement, the second - after replacement and the appearance of new elements and premises in the space, the building is not overloaded. As the architect emphasizes, this is a standard situation for the entire historical center of Kyiv. The work of these buildings already has a certain load, including attics. When replacing outdated structures, a metal frame is usually used. It is much lighter than masonry and wooden rafters, so the additional load does not significantly affect the bearing capacity of the building.

Oleksandr Kumeiko and Maria Golubka (PRAGMATIKA.MEDIA), meeting room of the Peremoga co-working space, str. Yaroslaviv Val, 15

The only place to look for pitfalls in remodeling is the foundation. But not even because the foundations are old, but because of the characteristics of the soil. And although the building shrinks over time and the soil compacts, the foundations often require strengthening in the process of roof reconstruction.

During the renovation of the mansards, there is also a change in the operation of the floors. Different loads are provided for attic floors of residential and public spaces, and this must be taken into account during design. The load on the floor is also related to the fact that the building goes through several stages of life. Each new owner, instead of dismantling and replacing the old pie, simply adds a new layer. It is not even necessary to explain how inefficient and harmful this solution is. In abandoned attics, a layer of dirt is added and a whole layer of vital activity of birds, rats, and homeless animals that find shelter here. In the process of reconstruction, the floor is first of all cleaned of layers, and the floors themselves, which have a rather heavy structure, are replaced with new, lighter ones.

Residential building on Gogolivska Street in Kyiv. The reconstruction of the attic was carried out under the leadership of Oleksandr Kumeiko

Not to be speechless

We talked with Oleksandr about two "attic" projects that his studio was working on.

The first case was implemented in 2012 in a building on Gogolivska Street, in the center of Kyiv. The impetus for creating housing in the attic was a request from residents to fix the roof, which had been having problems all along. The roof was leaking, permanently in need of repair. In addition, birds constantly lived there, homeless women often spent the night there.

When the residents decided on a major renovation, the attic space was divided between several owners, and in the process of the roof reconstruction, new housing was arranged - several apartments. The architects of Kumeika's team designed the space, completed the planning, and other specialists handled the interior.

During the reconstruction of attics, the foundations, as a rule, require strengthening

At the initial stage of design, the architects studied the attic and carried out a survey of the foundations. As a result, all structures were replaced. Old wooden rafters gave way to metal beams, concrete floors - a light screed on a profiled sheet. In addition to the renewal of the roof itself, the main hall was renovated. As a result, residents of the upper floors received additional living space, residents of the lower floors received a bonus in the form of security. Unsanitary conditions, the emergency state of structures, and the intrusion of outsiders into the house have become a thing of the past.

Residential building on Gogolivska Street in Kyiv. The reconstruction of the attic was carried out under the leadership of Oleksandr Kumeiko

This is Peremoga

If the attic was reconstructed in a residential building on Gogolivska Street, then in another capital building, the architects made a pitched roof practically from scratch. It is about the "house with photographs" at 15 Yaroslaviv Val Street.

Specialists performed a complete reconstruction of the premises of the building. The old roof was in a terrible state, the rafters and all the wooden beams were broken with shashel. In the process of reconstruction, the structural scheme above was replaced by a metal frame with two rows of columns on the axes of the load-bearing walls of the lower floors. In this situation, the architects did not miss the opportunity to create panoramic glazing.

Photo: Andriy Bezuglov

After the renovation of the building, the Peremoga co-working space was located here. Daryna Mudrak, brand manager of the Peremoga co-working space, talks about her impressions and feelings in the new space:

"The Peremoga team started work on Yaroslavovo Val, 15 in September 2020, breathing new life into a building that had been decaying for more than twenty years. This case became our first revitalization project. It is especially nice to bring life back to empty buildings. Therefore, we are currently actively looking for new objects that need restoration.

Working on the design with the team of architects, we tried to harmoniously fit the decorative elements so that they do not distract or interfere with the working mood. In our interiors, we combine simple things that are the key to comfortable work and productivity: good planning, quality furniture and convenient location of locations. In general, we like the minimalist style of the interiors and the way the authentic brickwork is combined with the strict white walls.

Daryna Mudrak, brand manager of Peremoga co-working space

As for the compliance of the premises with the functional filling, the location and convenience of the location itself played an important role for us. The Golden Gate area has many advantages: all the necessary infrastructure for comfortable work is nearby, there is a large selection of restaurants, there is a subway, and offices with panoramic windows on the highest floor of the building offer a wonderful view of the historic center of Kyiv.

Daryna Mudrak: "It's especially nice to bring life back to empty buildings"

The biggest advantage of a mansard with panoramic windows is a view of the city and a large amount of daylight. At the same time, such windows add trouble: you need to pay special attention to the heating system and the actual quality of the windows so that the room does not lose heat in the cold season. In addition, it is necessary to take into account that the sunny side will get very hot in the summer, so it is worth taking care of good blinds / blinds and air conditioning. In our opinion, we managed to balance and take into account all factors."

Interiors of the Peremoga co-working space. Photo: Andriy Bezuglov

Interiors of the Peremoga co-working space. Photo: Andriy Bezuglov

During the interview with Oleksandr, we visited one of the residents of the coworking space, the editorial office of, a media company about the IT sphere in Ukraine. "We've been here since August," says Stas Yurasov, editor-in-chief of, "before that we rented office space in Gulliver BC." It is important to our manager Artem where the team works, because the right atmosphere promotes creativity. Impressions from our workspace are very good. The room is small, but bright, because the walls are painted in light colors and because we have a large window. In addition to the light, it is also a very beautiful landscape that complements the interior."

Stas Yurasov, editor-in-chief of and Maria Golubka (PRAGMATIKA.MEDIA)

Lie down on a roof in Bruges

Oleksandr likes to travel. He has 67 countries on his account. "I like to see not only how they live there, but also how they build there," he says. Kumeiko shares his "architectural observations" regarding the arrangement of attics. Oleksandr talks about Strasbourg. This is a city where buildings usually have roofs 3-4 stories high. The fact that the structures of new or reconstructed buildings are made of metal is determined experimentally by Oleksandr: "I understand this by the frequency of the steps of the columns and by the way the edges of the beams are visible on the section of the roof." Multi-storey residential roofs are also characteristic of the cities of Bavaria in Germany. But, of course, the most vivid illustration of this direction is the birthplace of mansards, the French capital. "Paris is the biggest positive example for those who are against living on the roof," says Kumeiko, "here you can even trace several levels, several stages of the rise above the city."

Oleksandr Kumeiko, architect

Oleksandr Kumeiko: "Paris is the brightest positive example for those who are against living on the roof"

There is a popular opinion that people with a specific character or profession choose to live in attics. When we say the word "attic", we imagine an artist's workshop or a photo studio, a large spacious study with a library or a swing suspended from the ceiling, a room flooded with light, or a whole greenhouse. The interior of the attic sets a certain mood, creates a special state - with this statement Kumeiko fully agrees. Alexander himself lived in attics in Paris and Bruges.

"Undoubtedly, living on the roof creates an unusual atmosphere," Oleksandr says, explaining this by the fact that the perspective of the city's perception changes. According to him, of course, a lot depends on the view outside the window: if across the street is a concrete plant that works around the clock, then you will not feel any romance, but if you are surrounded by the same attics, the historical center, beautiful architecture, then the feeling will be different.

Living in the attic is not only possible, but also necessary. Mastering the unused attic spaces of the city, it is possible to solve several problems at once, both at the level of the residents' lives and at the level of the urban planning situation. By putting a "hat" on the building, specialists have the opportunity to reanimate the architecture and create an interior with increased comfort and a special atmosphere.

A view of the rooftops in the historic quarter of Bruges.
Photo: Sol Mitnick/Unsplash