RECEIVED A REGIONAL AWARD OF MERIT FROM THE PRETORIA INSTITUTE FOR ARCHITECTURE (2011-2012)
"The clients acquired a 1-hectare plot in Mooikloof Glen Estate to the east of Pretoria and wanted to build a modern and spacious family house where they could raise their three daughters. The brief called for maximized indoor-outdoor living and designated spaces where the family members could engage with their individual lives.
To make the most of the large site, the design intentions were focused on achieving a sense of openness and of being one with the landscape, in the building as a phenomenon and in the experience of it. Thus the house was designed as a single-storey structure, low slung and in the form of a simple H-plan, creating two courtyard spaces. The first is used as an entrance space and the second as an outdoor living area with a pool.
The living and entertainment areas are accomodated in the northern wing, which is transparent across the major proportion of its length.The bedrooms in the southern wing, which also have full-height windows, are set, for privacy and also to improve the sight lines through, at a level slightly higher than the court. Both look straight through the northern wing and connect with its view to the hills beyond.
To achieve this openness, steel was the obvious choice as the main structural material, freeing the walls to be transparent and adjustable. Large sliding glass panels in the living areas allow various degrees of openness, from completely open to completely closed, making them adaptable to weather conditions and flexible in use. The arrangement allows the residents to engage fully with the garden and landscape all of the time.
The design method is a free version of the Mesian tradition. Like the Farnsworth House, it is ordered by a strong geometry, but has a looser, less bounded composition. It, too, has a plinth expressed as a hovering plane, which is reached from the slightly lower garden by short stairs of similarly expressed treads. However, the element is not bound by the edge of the house, but continious past it to an outdoor living area. Similarly, on the one hand, the steel structural skeleton is exposed and celebrated, establishing the aesthetic language of the building, its modular rhythm producing a sense of completeness, coherence and harmony throughout. On the other hand walls are also expressed as planes and together with some structural elements, slide past the boundaries of the modular structure and evince a sense of freedom.
Although, on the southern edge, the building cuts into the landscape, binding it to the earth, the prevailing effect is of lightness over the landscape. Almost all spatial elements contribute to this. A central walkway, forming the spine that binds the separate portions of the house together, has a suspended steel pergola. The steps and decks in the court and bridge over the pool are designed to suggest a thin weightlessness. The long pergolas, detailed in refined steelwork, cantilever effortlessly. Above all, the low-angled, mono pitch roofs, with their 2m eaves delicately made with shaped rafters and sharp edges, 'float' as wide protective planes. It is a building of considerable technical refinement and geometric precision. However, its sensitivity to its immediate site, combined with all the devices to make it weightless and transparent, give it a powerful resonance with the subtly sloping and lightly clad landscapes it inhabits."
- Lars Adams, Architecture South Africa, issue 67, May/June 2014
Photos by Dook (courtesy of VISI Magazine)