Before ‘rooftopping’ was a phrase associated with under the radar urban explorers looking for a skyward thrill and now social media-savvy climbers looking to promote Instagram accounts and YouTube channels, it was a high-risk task associated with what some considered to be an unglamorous profession: construction work. Going back to the 1930s in New York and the building of the now-famous high-rise architectural marvels like the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center, workers were unknowingly rooftopping to get their pay checks.
Today, rooftoppers are a different breed. Yes, there were those individuals who ‘back in the day’ recognized the benefits of a good black-and-white-photo publicity stunt, but as buildings have gotten higher the risks associated with rooftopping grow exponentially along with them. In December of 2017 it was confirmed that 26-year-old Wu Yongning, an experienced rooftopper with a large online following, fell 62 stories to his death during a failed climb of Changsha’s Huayuan Hua Centre. His name was added to a list of recent rooftopper deaths in cities like Chicago and New York.
What started as a way for an individual to pay the bills through their job is now becoming a crowded online scene filled with daredevils all trying to outdo one another to land viewership numbers on social media channels and potential cash endorsement deals through a variety of products. Deadly? Potentially. Stupid? Depends on who you talk to, and how high up they are at the time.
Story by Jay Moon
- The lure of tall buildings: A guide to the risky but lucrative world of ‘rooftoppers’
- Daredevil Wu Yongning died after falling off skyscraper in China. What is ‘rooftopping’?
- What is rooftopping, is it illegal and what happened to Wu Yongning and Harry Gallagher?
- Death of Man in Skyscraper Fall in China Puts a Spotlight on ‘Rooftopping’