Luthuli Game Reserve was a liquidated spa/game-reserve (a proposed “cosmetic surgery safari” venue) that was planned for consolidation into the greater Zululand Rhino Reserve. Unsurprisingly the venture failed, but expansive planning and infrastructure had been completed, leaving 20 serviced platforms on the farm. A group of Durban investors purchased the reserve, some building holiday homes. This is the third home Koop has designed within the reserve and the second to have completed construction.

The program called for a house that comfortably accommodated three families holidaying together, or the host family alone. Split into three pavilions of differing function, (i)Living, (ii)Host Family Bedrooms and (iii)Guest Bedrooms, the house responds to spatial need.

The spatial organisation of the design attempts to solve a great dichotomy of the opportunities offered by natural settings. Panoramic views give us the sense of the vastness of Africa, but many memorable experiences in nature come from intimate experiences, close up with fauna and flora. Experienced bush dwellers may sacrifice view for shelter and intimacy, but a holiday home misses a trick if the view is not exploited. The open view of the bush landscape and the mountains in the distance to the east is juxtaposed by the intimate view uphill to the west. This view is below tree canopy and also enjoys the elevated horizon behind. Both views are equal.

The Living Pavilion is located on the original serviced platform with the Host Family Pavilion. A space between them allows North light into the living room. This is an intimate protected outdoor space with views forward and back. North orientation is achieved in a house that views East towards the Lebombo Mountains, and West. The Guest Pavilion, on a level elevated above the main platform and to the south of the Living Pavilion, is elevated to provide privacy, access light and respond to the shape of the site.

All functional areas connect strongly to their surroundings through glazed elevations and intimate related outdoor spaces.

The structural system aims to provide flexibility of space, environmental protection and basic functional components.

The separation of the timber columns on the east elevation from the envelope allows the doors to slide independently of the structure. The living room and bedrooms are designed to open onto the outside decks in a simple gesture that extends the functional space of the room. The external floor material continuing into the spaces on floor and ceiling further enables this close relationship. This use of natural timber, matt and dark, at the eastern edge of the space, counteracts the effect of glare.

The structure is multifunctional – solid and deep on the west elevation. Closely spaced fin-walls define the related internal spaces. The house is entirely serviced from the west with the served spaces to the east. The deep fin-walls allow deep-pocketed windows on the west elevation. Thus incoming sunlight and thermal stability is offered. Internally the fin-walls support kitchen counters, vanities, storage units etc. The roof projects well beyond the glazing on all elevations, internal spaces are large and airy and panoramic view is exploited as much as possible. The design attempts to make the experience from within the house as close to being in the environment as possible. Formalised camping.

The building is designed to integrate with the environment as much as possible. Materials used include loose stone from the farm clads the walls. Locally sourced timber flooring, ceilings and columns and colours are chosen to blend into the landscape. The profile of the house is low to blend with the geologically stunted vegetation and gentle rolling hills.

All trees were carefully plotted to avoid any being lost during the building process and integrate the building with the site. The opportunity offered by a line of acacias at the guest bedroom pavilion defines the related outdoor space. A small level area is designed behind the house to provide a sheltered “back garden”. This is the only area of the site that allows a managed garden.

Grey water is fed into the landscape to irrigate trees. A complex energy system is avoided as this house consumes very little power due to the fact that it is occupied 10% of the year. Service systems remain shut down most of the time. Systems are avoided in favour of effective passive design.

This project won a special mention for Architecture from the KZNIA in 2013