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HOUSE NIEUWENHUYS

Blog | Date: May 10, 2017

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Earthworld Architects
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HOUSE NIEUWENHUYS

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Pretoria Institute for Architecture
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The project called for the creation of a contemporary modern house, located on Lynnwood Ridge, Pretoria. The constraints of the project created an interesting interplay between the size of the house, requiring 4 bedrooms to house the family, and the compact nature of the estate in which the project finds itself situated. The estate had been deliberately designed to be relatively high-density, with no boundary setbacks, bringing the image of English row-houses to mind, though reconsidered in a South African Modern vernacular.

The extensive brief called for innovative planning. Fitting in as much built area as the actual size of the site but keeping enough garden space for the clients’ two active boys to play in. It was critical that the available site area had to be optimized in order to give as much area as possible back to the site once the construction is complete.

This project belongs to a body of work where the relationship between structure, it’s impact on a site and the architect’s role as mediator between landscape and man was explored. It was decided to approach the design of the building from the point of departure that the structure should become a simple sculptural shelter. The entire site should become the actual dwelling. The structure must merely reinforce the latent potential of the site, ordering nature just enough to facilitate dwelling.

The use of concrete is normally associated with stereotomic structures. Concrete, however also offers opportunity to create a light shell structure. Vertical structure was kept as light as possible with strong articulation of the horizontality and folded tectonic of the shell. It was of high importance that the structure should touch the site in as lightly as possible. Employing steel in this context proved quite effective and articulated the concrete shell as a floating landscape. This idea is carried throughout the design, where it is most noticeably applied to the northern bedroom wing which is elevated to give the impression of a floating box, touching the site very lightly. Building became the action of lifting a part of the site to become shelter.

The site is to be left “undisturbed”. Place making is achieved by imposing a floating concrete shell over the actual site. Minimal groundworks were undertaken, as to ensure minimal disturbance of the site. Where the program dictated bulk building elements, these were treated as “site”, landscaping the roofs of these elements ensured reintegration into the landscape.

As previously discussed, a sculptural concrete shell defines the “sheltered space”. Unfortunately, thermal mass & slender articulation of structure can often be counter-intuitive, making the implementation of shading devices, & insulation an imperative to achieving efficient thermal behavior. Allowance for mass insulation on the roofs, hand-in-hand with the landscaping proved effective in achieving this goal.

The carefully shaded glass facades ensure a continuation of space with minimal differentiation between the interior & exterior spaces.

Solar Heated Domestic Hot Water and Grey water systems has been utilized to reduce the carbon footprint. Rainwater collection and filtration, provides, to a certain extent, self-sufficiency.

In its entirety, the design stands as an excellent example of what can be achieved when sustainable design principles are incorporated into contemporary living.
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