A young Norwegian couple relocated to South Africa in 2010 and sourced this property shortly after their arrival. From a single storey house with a swimming pool on ground measuring 753 square metres, the new build now spans a total covered area of 435 square metres.
As the family began to grow, the need to create a custom-designed home became apparent. They had lived on the site for several years prior and were aware of what views they wanted to capture, and which areas could be more wind-free.
Says lead design architect Renato Graca: ‘The clients were key to the project’s success. Their brief was clear, decision making was concise and efficient. They gave us a great deal of freedom in the interpretation of the brief and its execution. This was a pleasure in the otherwise massively complex and frustrating world of building.
‘The site is relatively long but narrow with a significant two-storey height difference between front and rear. So, with this existing slope, we were able to cascade the house and create various levels of intimacy, light and dialogue between both interior and exterior.’
To maximise the views and address the fall of the land, the structure was divided into two sections, which are linked via the central family zone courtyard with adjacent kitchen on the first floor.
By locating all family bedrooms and bathrooms at the rear of the property privacy is created naturally, with the front of the house incorporating the more public spaces for living and entertaining. The central position of the kitchen and courtyard means that the family can be in different areas without being visually separated. The courtyard has been placed on the north side, with the house as a buffer for the strong southeaster winds, which allows it to be used year-round. The pool was also placed on the east-west axis, to provide the longest possible length and boost solar heating.
The vertical steps within the structure allow for unobstructed views from almost every room in the house with multiple terraces for outdoor living and entertaining.
The architects recall: ‘The soil conditions were not as expected, and very deep footings were required, which caused delays in construction; the rear of the house is effectively built on stilts to offset these poor soil conditions.
‘The owners are Scandinavian, have lived all over the world and travel extensively. Their design intent was minimal, involving warm colours and natural materials with timber used for flooring, ceilings, privacy screens, wall panelling and all joinery. These timber elements were complemented with off-shutter concrete, natural stone cladding and Fibonacci tiles to create a palette of timeless, natural materials that age well.’
Project architect René Bakker adds: ‘The design of the house responds in every possible way to its environment and has taken the family’s current and future needs into account. Consisting of a combination of vertical and horizontal focus with two floating roofs above, the main vertical element is the tiled feature wall, which creates a buffer for the southeaster wind, as well as privacy from the neighbouring property.
This wall is disconnected from the rest of the house by a two-storey high window and skylight, which enables the living room on the first floor to enjoy maximum daylight but not direct sun, due to the careful positioning of various overhangs and the use of performance glass. We needed to limit the number of steel posts to exploit views, which required some advanced engineering to achieve.’
Renato Graca: ‘We aimed to achieve a build that meets our standard for modern, minimalist architecture, but also to create an environment for an energetic young family that isn’t restricted by the architectural design. Design and usability needed to be considered equally in the layout and choice of materials.’
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