Hillside House is a contemporary single family property designed by GASS Architecture Studios, situated on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountains in Stellenbosch, South Africa. The residence is simultaneously arresting and juxtaposed as it fits flawlessly into its surroundings, nestled between rolling vineyards, a koppie (small granite hill) and a river below
You approach the house up a steep driveway meandering through the vineyards. The driveway and the forecourt are a modern interpretation of a traditional farmhouse. This is characterized overall by the planning of the house’s location but also more specifically by the gravel driveway, expansive forecourt, drive-in open garaging reminiscent of a barn and water feature evocative of an animal’s drinking trough. This modern drinking trough is then fed by a modernist architectural waterspout from the roof of the house.
These farmhouse characteristics are not just visual either. Other senses are also stimulated: your scent is stimulated by the smells of the farmlands and rural surrounding as is your auditory sense when you hear the gravel beneath the car’s tires.
There is a genuine sense of arrival every time you visit Hillside. Access to the front door is gained from a double-sided staircase from left or right of the gravel arrivals courtyard. This short stairway is a nod to the Colonial influence of traditional Cape vernacular typical to architecture seen in the Cape (many buildings in and around Cape Town like The Castle of Good Hope, the City Hall and Tokai Manor House, for example, boast this kind of double-sided arrival staircase).
As visitor – and homeowner – you are fully aware of the amazing setting but on arriving within the farm yard style forecourt the scale of the house changes from a 3-story to a double volume dwelling – so you don’t really get a sense of all the floors and levels. Beyond this point it is by no means farmhouse, well not in the traditional sense of the word anyway.
Before walking up the steps to the solid timber double front doors you also have the choice of going downstairs to the guest suites (that are currently being used by the home owner’s older children when they’re not at university).
A repetitive architectural feature of the house is the many stacked granite stone walls. Most of the stones for these have been harvested from the site. The front door is also situated within one of these granite feature walls. Before entering the house one has no idea what to expect on the other side – it’s a kind of tardis with unexpected treasures beyond! As you walk through the threshold you are immediately greeted by a giant picture window showcasing the inner courtyard around which the home is designed and the koppie (small granite hill) to the rear of the house. The koppie (small granite hill), as with the rest of the garden, boasts local fynbos and indigenous flora and a kitchen garden to the side.
From the home owners:
We wanted a home that merged the inside and the outside and that gave us beautiful changing visual cameos wherever you looked. Our architect managed to masterfully capture our need for simplicity, nature and a very serene ambiance that is then offset by our somewhat mad and effusive large family.
Photos: Kate Del Fante Scott
Montrose Residence is the demolition of an existing home into a beautiful double volume structure by SAOTA architects, situated high on the ridge of Bishopscourt in Cape Town, South Africa. The site was divided by the existing driveway, which rose steeply from the end of the cul-de-sac below. The new building’s form, perched as it is in a commanding position, was perceived from the outset to be a pavilion overlooking the lawns and the forested valley below.
The clients’ brief had a few specific requirements; orientation towards the Constantia Valley and distant False Bay, and the dramatic views up the mountains above Kirstenbosch were essential, as was the emphasis on developing the site to maximize the garden and lawn area. Following the brief the driveway was relocated to the southern boundary of the site to allow this and open up the lawns and the gardens towards the sun and mountain views. There are panoramic vistas towards the south and west from the bedrooms and living rooms; while the pool and terraces are located on the north-east side, in a courtyard protected from the Southeaster gales by the intersecting linear forms of the house.
The triangular shape of the site, and its elevation above the street and steep incline, required extensive excavation and retaining, in order to provide a driveway of acceptable gradient, and extensive building platform on one level, and garden terraces all round.
The double-winged roof, floating above the bedroom wing, and virtually glass box-enclosed living rooms, are the main architectural features. These are complemented by secondary architectural elements such as the cantilevered end of the main entrance feature wall, the floating stone-clad fireplace, continuous perimeter cantilever terraces to the bedrooms and the wrap-around cantilever eyebrow.
Finishes include: polished granite floors, no carpets, no curtains and the floating feature roof with clerestory lighting. The clients’ preference was towards a slick modernist environment with a definitive northern European flair. The imported light grey granite floor slabs set the tone for a color palette of cool greys rather than natural browns, a refreshing change from prevailing trends.
The dual living areas on the ground and first floors are linked by a double volume and are wrapped in glass which takes advantage of the views.
Photos: Wieland Gleich
POD Boutique Hotel is a luxurious hotel subtly promoting discretion and elegance, completed in 2009 by Greg Wright Architects, located in Cape Town, South Africa. POD is more than a luxury boutique hotel. It’s a declaration of love for fine living, fine design, and unforgettable experiences. Conceived of as a discreet and super-stylish location and getaway on the Camps Bay strip, this project is set to become the destination of choice for those “in the know”.
A unique palette of granite, slate, African timber and glass has been brought together in elegant simplicity in an attempt to make rooms and relaxation spaces desirable to those who appreciate stylish accommodation backed up by discreet, luxurious service.Add to that the fact that all that makes Camps Bay the international destination of choice, this project is set to redefine the boutique accommodation business in Cape Town and set the benchmark for those going forward.
15 bedrooms and suites provide ultimate comfort and privacy, evoking a feeling of sanctuary and serene relaxation.
Aloe Ridge House is a contemporary dream home designed by Metropole Architects, nestled under the leafy canopy of an immense Albizia Tree, located in the Eden Rock Estate on Kwa Zulu Natal’s South Coast of South Africa. Comprised of 3,229 square feet (300 square meters) of living space, the home promotes the notion that a dream house does not need to be sprawling and palatial but that in fact, small can be beautiful.
At first floor level, the design focus was to promote a sense of openness with privacy and create a diverse, joyful place in a limited space. Whilst the need for privacy has dictated the use of doors, these doorways are full height at 2.6 meters and when open allow continuity of space to be experienced through an uninterrupted ceiling plane.
The house is a veritable ‘Mesian box’ of bold contemporary architectural design set into the African indigenous coastal forest context, making a big architectural statement despite its relatively diminutive dimensions.
The house stands proud on its corner site and is a progressive cantilever form that proclaims its presence and is representative of a paradigm shift in the estate’s architectural design language.
The planar estate road (public) facade is intentionally bold, minimalist and austere and hard up against the south western site building line. The result is a visually engaging architecture that makes efficient use of the small site, provides effective privacy to the inhabitants whilst at the same time acting as an efficient barrier to bad weather and prevailing strong winds coming from the south west. In addition a narrow linear plan form, maximizes openness and sheltered private space for living, entertainment and relaxation behind this to the North East, in close proximity to the wild natural bush and looking out towards the view beyond.
The entrance to the house is a carefully considered grand, double volume arrangement of components in glass, timber and concrete and with ‘wrap around’ form making, a signature characteristic of recent Metropole homes.
There is a sense of ‘big-ness’ and ‘wow factor’ right from the start.
The strong horizontal line created by the roof of the garage structure provides visual axial thrust to the point of entry, into a transparent double volume entrance area and through to the kitchen and living spaces beyond.
Internally, at ground floor level, open plan design with a minimum of dividing walls, no internal doors and level thresholds between inside and outside facilitate a user experience of a single large multi-use space that unconstricted, uncluttered and weather permitting, is able to open up and connect and extend to the outdoors.
In Aloe Ridge House there is a unity of opposites.
The clean, hard and straight lines of the man-made intervention meet the soft flowing irregular line and textures of the natural bush context in a respectful harmony.
The 3 bedrooms are located on the first level opening out to an elevated balcony which allows distant views over the tree tops to the sea in the east and distant hills and the setting sun to the west. A series of movable Balau timber screens bring in filtered daylight to the clean, modernist interiors, without sacrificing privacy whilst adding a degree of detail and natural colors and texture to the modern facade.
High level perimeter strip windows visually lighten the experience of the first floor building mass overhead and enhance the experience of the vertical dimension of the living, dining and entertainment areas at ground floor level.
A generous external decked area with plunge pool and open lawn area beyond encourages the inhabitants to indulge in and celebrate an outdoor lifestyle of entertainment, play and relaxation.
The architecture brings the great big South African outdoors in and in turn encourages the inhabitants to venture out into it.
Extensive cantilevers resonant of the canopy of the Albizia tree provide a sense of lightness and floating of the upper building mass on the open plan lower level.
The extensive use of glass breaks down the traditional visual barriers between inside and out as well as providing reflections of the natural vegetation that is its context.
The palette of natural materials including earthy color tones, timber screens, decking stone cladding juxtapose with the bold and progressive architectural form making, creating a small home that ‘packs a big punch’ and that is not only visually and spatially exciting, but also comfortable and intimate.
Photos: Grant Pitcher
Albizia House is a contemporary family home envisioned by Metropole Architects, nestled on a one acre site in Simbithi Eco Estate, South Africa. The client’s brief called for a home with an overriding sense of simplicity but with a high degree of sophistication.
The architectural style of the home is heavily influenced by the ‘Googie’ architecture of the American architect John Lautner. The origin of the name ‘Googie’ dates to 1949, when architect John Lautner designed the West Hollywood coffee shop, ‘Googies’, which had distinct architectural characteristics.
‘Googie’ architecture is a form of modern architecture and a subdivision of futurist architecture with stylistic conventions influenced by, and representing 50’s American society’s fascination and marketing emphasis on futuristic design, car culture, jets, the Space Age, and the Atomic Age.
‘Googie’ was also characterized by design forms symbolic of motion, including upswept roofs, curvaceous geometric shapes, and the bold use of glass, steel and neon, the spirit of which is embodied in Albizia House.
The extensive use of water in the design of the home includes a 25 meters lap pool with a glass panel between the water and the basement cinema room, and a shallow but expansive reflective pond on the approach side, which mirrors the building day and night, and evokes a sense of tranquility.
The palette of natural materials including timber screens, decking and cladding, off-shutter concrete and stone cladding juxtapose with the aggressive architectural form making, creating a home that is not only visually and spatially exciting, but also comfortable and intimate.
All the living areas and bedroom suites face onto a panoramic vista, which includes a dense forest down-slope from the house.
Photos: Grant Pitcher
Voelklip is a modern beach house designed by SAOTA Architects in collaboration with interior design firm Antoni Associates, located in Voëlklip Beach, Hermanus, a town on the southern coast of the Western Cape province of South Africa. A narrow 14 meters site was engaged to its maximum to achieve a spacious home arranged around a large garden and pool courtyard. Extensive concrete spans capture the panoramic sea views.
Completed in 2009, the brief called for a beach house suitable for a family of four, on a vacant site in Voelklip, Hermanus, Western Cape, RSA. The site is a long thin rectangular subdivision stretching from the sun facing street and mountain side to the undulating tree tops of the milkwoods and fynbos and the coastline on the South.
The gently sloping site presented the opportunity for a split-level living space allowing lounge, dining to be placed above the bedrooms on the ground level, all enjoying dramatic sea views. The double volume family room and kitchen form the heart of the home and form the connection between the sea facing accommodation and the internal sunny terraces, pool and garden. The main garden courtyard functions as a large wind free and sunny outdoor entertainment environment.
Materials were selected to enhance the beach-house character of the building while at the same time adding touches of sophisticated detail: white cement screed floors to the public circulation areas; lime washed oak floors to the lounge, dining area and lower-ground floor bedrooms; off shutter concrete ceilings; and external timber decks and pergolas, cladding, screens and shutters providing security, privacy and protection.
Photos: Courtesy of SAOTA
Vame is a spectacular summer holiday retreat that has been designed for a couple from New York by SAOTA Architects, located in Pearl Bay, South Africa. The clients were aware of the contemporary architectural trends, requesting a sculptured building with clean horizontal lines, large areas of glass and screens creating a space that is ‘open as well as private’. Their brief was a two bedroom home with indoor / outdoor living spaces and a studio to be used in their photographic and film related occupations.
The site is one of the few remaining sea-front stretches on the West Coast to be developed. Passing through the sleepy residential area of Yzerfontein one heads back South towards Cape Town. The site is one of a prize number located immediately behind the never-ending line of dunes. The climate on the West Coast can at times be idyllic and other times extremely harsh.
To maximize the views of the sea and waves over the dunes, the Ground Floor living areas were elevated above natural ground level. The L-shaped concept of two intersecting rectangular forms allow two full glazed sides to face the view and at the same time create a sheltered courtyard overlooking a long, rectangular pool. Sculptured rectangular forms, linear elements, expansive areas of horizontal glazing, sliding timber screens and the feature fireplace are the principal elements of the design.
The simple choice of materials complements the sculptural form of the house. The ceilings are off-shutter concrete with subtle wood grain patterns in the rectangular grids formed by the standard sized shutter boards. Walls are painted single coat plaster. Floors and bathroom walls are white cement screed throughout.
The principal neutral elements are complemented by the natural timber shutters and screens. These will mature in time to the silver-grey color of Balau timber. The full height internal doors and joinery are dark Walnut stained African mahogany; the cantilever staircase is rich red ‘Boire’ timber. Each bathroom is characterized by a feature wall in a carefully selected turquoise or green mosaic to complement the jade green slate vanity tops. Natural stone ribbon-clad features include the fireplace hearth, the red sandstone barbeque ledge recess and the rock-face jade slate pool spillway water feature. The basement courtyard has a Balau timber deck, highlighting the transition from the internal white cement screed to the dune sand. The high-gloss lacquered kitchen in yellow with seamless snow-white moulded counter tops is an unexpected surprise, for a functional element.
Raising the living areas above the natural ground level allows a one and a half volume high basement studio. Approached via an enclosed staircase, the basement comprises a large working studio, a study / third bedroom, bathroom and store room. The studio opens up to a courtyard, level with the sand of the valley between the site and the dunes. Floor-to-ceiling cavity sliding glazing allows the studio, courtyard and valley to become a single space – a natural daylight studio of infinite length. A dramatic stone-clad waterfeature cascades down from the pool on the enclosed side of the courtyard cooling the air of the sun-filled sheltered space.
The primary living level is raised above street level. The simplified street elevation comprises a natural timber garage door and is all that is required. One arrives at the front door up a gentle flight of stepping stones bedded in natural vegetation. The living area is made up of; an entrance hall with feature cantilever tread staircase, an open-plan kitchen, dining and lounge and the sea-facing balcony running the full length of the West facade as well as a covered terrace and linear patio cantilever over the sheltered courtyard garden and crystal-clear lap pool.
The First Floor has two bedroom suites. The main suite faces the sea and opens onto a terrace the length of the garden facade and has an accessible roof rock garden. The dressing room leads to the en-suite bathroom. The second bedroom en-suite is located at the inland end of the gallery passage space, and opens onto the same linear garden balcony.
The form of the house follows the required function. The L-shaped plan with its extended feature-wall towards the street creates the protected courtyard and living area. The sea-facing facade is glazed from end to end, encompassing the panoramic view from the North to Table Mountain in the South. The living area glazing can be completely opened up to allow the room to become part of the dunes, the ocean and horizon on a perfect West Coast day. The sliding Balau shutter screens provide protection from the setting sun over the Western horizon as well as privacy and security when required. The glazing to the covered terrace can also be completely opened, allowing the kitchen, dining area, covered terrace and courtyard to become one continuous entertainment area – open to the dunes and sea, or protected when the West facade glazing is closed. The screens to the covered terrace provide security and protection from the elements.
A second layer of architectural intent is evident in the carefully considered framed views and light sources. A slot skylight above the cantilevered staircase in the entrance hall throws a shaft of light into the center of the house. This casts a moving splay of shadows over the staircase treads. Framed vistas of sea and hilltop at each end of the basement staircase are viewed as one moves up or down between the cool enclosing walls. A picture window to the South of the main bedroom frames the view down the ridge of dunes towards Table Mountain.
Vertical and horizontal slot windows in the bathrooms allow views to the exterior while maintaining a sense of privacy. The butt joined glazed corners of the sea-facing facade enhance the panoramic view and floating horizontal lines. The experience of light climaxes in an almost laser show experience when the sliding shutters are closed during a sunset. The sun’s rays, as they filter through the minimal gaps between the horizontal timber slats create a magical experience as you move within the house. The cantilevered garden terrace extends the length of the house and wraps around to the fireplace, creating the impression that the building sits very lightly on the ground.
The house is essentially architectural and minimalist while at the same time being harmonious and complementary to West Coast vernacular.
Photos: Courtesy of SAOTA
House Abo is the contemporary redesign and addition of an outdated face brick house by Nico van der Meulen Architects, located in Limpopo, South Africa. When the architects were called in for renovations to this home, the most obvious factor they took into account was the excessive heat. This particular project would require specialized treatment to ensure that all the additions and alterations were suitable for the hot conditions.
Description of the project courtesy of the architect’s: The client’s brief was as follows: to redesign and style the living and entertainment areas of the house, giving it a more modern and attractive look. In the end, what was once an average single storey 3,692 square foot (343 square meters) house was transformed into an impressive double storey 5,317 square foot (494 square meters) house.
Naturally, the climate influenced most of what was implemented in the design; large expanses of opening glass were chosen to allow in as much natural light as possible without inundating the house with sun all year around; the well insulated lightweight structure of the whole house ensures that it cools down quickly in the evenings; while the water features serve as a natural cooling system. Steel, one of the chosen materials for the house, was also used in varied forms for thermal control.
The living room was opened up to create a double volume area. The frameless folding doors in the living room contribute to its open feel, as the house can double up into a veranda when the doors are pulled back. Connecting the two floors of the house is the uniquely designed staircase, which was anchored into a buried six cubic meter concrete block to give it a floating appearance. Enhancing the visual appeal of the staircase are its floss hanging pendant lights, leading the eye vertically towards the double volume ceiling, the end result is a pleasing integrated area.
The bridge that runs over the swimming pool leads to the bedroom wing of the house, which was opened up to include vast expanses of glass. The glass sliding doors situated on both sides of the bedroom allow constant draught ventilation. These doors were also fitted with horizontal shutters made of steel to control the sun.
The use of exterior louvers influenced the design of the horizontal groove lines on the double volume plaster wall in the dining room, this added character to the originally dull wall. To further enhance this wall, horizontal ledges with a built in fireplace and selected works of art were also featured. The paint colors were carefully selected to complement one another, while the rusted corten steel adds creative interest. The horizontally slatted timber wall encapsulates the swimming pool patio/braai area. The wall also wraps up to the underside of the beautifully lit ceiling, which reflects back onto the black painted swimming pool. This creates the illusion of an enclosed space.
The house was furnished to not only compliment the architecture and interior design, but also the client’s request for minimalistic opulence. The furniture was supplied by Molteni and C, Floss, Kundalini and Royal Botania Outdoor Furniture, sourced by M Square Lifestyle Necessities.
To achieve the desired outcome, the architects had to step in and train the local builders, because they were unfamiliar with the chosen building system.
The architectural firm’s in-house interior design department, M Square Lifestyle Design, was responsible for the interior design. The entire teams involved in this project, along with client, were extremely pleased with the end result.
Photos: David Ross
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