PROGRAM AND TECHNOLOGY
This ambitious project called for a large house, built by the client and a small team, without a main contractor, using unconventional construction methods and materials. The brief was to provide a house that worked for the couple, maximized the opportunity of the site and would comfortably accommodate the extended family for regular gatherings.
The client had been collecting stone and recycled timber for a decade before commissioning the house. The collected materials were to be fully utilized. An agreement with local communities in the area gave access to forests earmarked for clearing and numerous indigenous hardwoods were resourced for the house. This wood was used for flooring and the manufacture of furniture on the farm. The various timber species were fabricated into beds, doors, tables and storage systems.
THE BOULDER WALL
Siting the house at water’s edge provided some challenges including sloping, unstable soil. The cutting of the platform exposed large boulders, utilized to retain the cut slope. Additional rocks were resourced from the excavation of a gas pipeline in the district. The landscaper developed an ingenious rock packing methodology with the assistance of the engineer. The boulders, being from the site, are a suitable response to the scale of the project and the expansive site.
THE LAKE EDGE
The house mediates the transition from the rock-walled entrance courtyard to a tree lined landscaped platform behind the house, through to a view overlooking the lake at the front. Instead of a large veranda to the front of the house, outdoor living areas are set between the core ground floor zones. These courtyards are nestled between living, work and bedroom bays, allowing both internal and external spaces to enjoy the water’s edge. This also protects the external spaces from prevailing winds, increasing the comfort of sitting outdoors.
The various spaces are linked on upper and lower level with a wide gallery and connected vertically by a bespoke stair. The stair is situated to connect the master bedroom to the main living and kitchen directly below. This ensures a more compact living zone for the primary couple to inhabit when the extended family is away.
Custom systems are used both in construction of the main structure and down to the fine detail of the furniture. A language was developed in the design process that was scalable so the detailing of the internal walls, ceilings and partitions translate into storage systems and furniture. In turn the steel structure is detailed in a way that it is translated into kitchen fittings and furniture. This concept is resolved into table feet and cupboard hinges, all uniquely developed for the project.
The building process was overseen by a combination of skilled tradesmen and local labour. Skills transfer was maximized by the closeness of the team and the client’s commitment to a project of the place and by the place. The fundamental design remained unchanged whilst building systems were developed around available materials and skills. The original design was resilient enough to respond to these developments along the way and the team remained resolute – held together by the intensely dedicated vision of the client.
Winner of the SAIA KZN Award for Architecture : 2017