private home, westcliff, johannesburg

Completion – August, 2020

This new 700 sqm home was built on a well-positioned plot for views in one of Johannesburg’s more exclusive northern suburbs called Westcliff. The original land was purchased by the client with an old, dilapidated home originally on it. The pre-existing home was suitably demolished with consent from the local Heritage body which Imagine Architects carefully performed a due diligence application to do so.

The style of the home was to take into account the Heritage value of the area, considering the traditional colonial architecture and mixing it with a more contemporary feel to take the home into present day. The house was then designed and built centre to the plot and worked with the rear at higher levels and cascading lower levels with steps in the home to maximize on beautiful suburb views out towards lower Johannesburg.

The project took approximately 4 months from design inception through to Council approval and the build took approximately 12 months to complete.

Johannesburg is renowned to have very cold, dry winters and especially warm summers, so with a brief to design the space planning of the home to accommodate 6 bedrooms the layout was spread out and encircles a central courtyard. The courtyard allowing ample light and sun warmth into some of the deeper spaces to heat up the more internal spaces through the winter and enveloped by concrete roof slabs to maintain absorbed heat throughout the day to radiate inwards at night for cold winter nights. Fireplaces were also introduced into the living and master bedroom spaces to compliment the temperature control through the winters. The concrete veranda roof framed as an integrative element concept with long continuous spaces that control north facing sun and the concrete roof absorbing heat through the day whilst creating a strong dialog of surrounding perimeter space with the surrounding garden. The homes levels were built on the existing contours to maximize views for living and bedroom areas, and with most of the important living spaces facing north to maximize the north dominant sun in the southern hemisphere. The home then stepping down appropriately to engulf the lower-level garden areas. A side wing was created for guest room spaces which are independently accessed to maintain privacy between entering guests and the existing family areas.

The bedroom areas were separated into two separate wings for the master bedroom, bathroom and walk in cupboard areas separate from the other two younger children spaces, and a centralized pyjama lounge area sandwiched between the two with beautiful views over the suburbs. The pyjama lounge and rear bedroom spaces were challenged in privacy due to the position of the home close to a public road to the rear, and as a result the surrounding windows were created at higher levels to maintain privacy but still produce light into the spaces. The pyjama lounge was created with an enveloping, high level ribbon window which worked very successfully in that it prevented any passing traffic views into the space whilst bringing in the surrounding purple jacaranda trees, making the lounge feel like its sitting in a forest of trees. This also capitalized on maintaining a the contemporary feel with the high level ribbon window reminiscent of the modern era in architecture.

The use of aluminium and glass windows and sliding doors were proposed in a traditional cottage-pane style. This continued the local colonial history of the areas architecture whilst also creating a fashionable ‘steam-punk’ style for the home in meeting its modern, contemporary architectural style. This was also effectively followed through with black sanitary fixtures and fittings which continued an authentic design consistency throughout the homes colour palette and style.

A grand centralized staircase clad in natural timber celebrates the circulation between upstairs and downstairs. There is an eccentric landing area surrounded by steps that act as a ‘podium’ to the base of the stair which dominates part of the living space. There were two design reasons for this. The first was that the homes floor to ceiling heights were created to be up to 3.2m in height. This was intentional to create a powerful sense of spaciousness throughout the home that also creates induced ventilation through the home during hot summer months, along with 2.4m high internal door openings as opposed to the standard 2.1m high. Due to a building regulation requirement to have a minimum 3m height between landing and top of stair, the bottom ‘podium’ landing was created to form a staircase type of furniture for kids and children to sit on and use whilst accommodating the living room spaces.

The 45-degree pitched, raised profiled metal sheeting roof is practical in matching the local area traditional style requirements as much as in its efficient drainage of the torrential rain downpours experienced through the summer months. This provides for efficient drainage of water down to ground level with very little roof leakage issues sometimes experienced with otherwise dominant, modern looking flat roofs. The only area provided with a flat roof area was over the centred, pyjama lounge space where provision was made for solar panels for the green technology requirements of the home. A strong stance was addressed in providing for sustainable energy for the home with local power outages being the norm, provided with up to 10kVA electrical power capacities with a built in UPS and battery pack system for prolong self-sustainable power requirements. The voids created within the roof spaces were then also taken advantage of with no horizontal ceilings introduced, creating powerful upper-level room spaces with open void raked ceilings and the use of exposed roof trusswork in the ceiling space appearances. 

The pool design was a new approach to the way swimming pools are typically arranged in terms of surrounding materials. Instead of a wide, surrounding brickwork or stone perimeter, the pool was created with a thin bull-nose edge single, stone tile, very narrow in width to emphasize more of a pronounced lawn landscaping around it, as opposed to a hard material walkway perimeter. With water levels filled up to the underside of the bullnose edge the pool comes across as an elegant, flush finish to the surrounding grass landscaping making for a simple finish to the pools appearance to match its simplistic rectangular, practical layout.

There were a lot of elements created within the home in the form of pairs. Such as the two upper level bedroom wings, paired gables, paired structural steel posts, paired downlighters and twin steel-post balustrade elements. The design philosophy behind the pairings were reminiscent of an ‘architectural romanticism’. The duo-elements are subtle reminders of a beautiful marriage between two people whose home reflects it presence. 

In conclusion, the home creates a successful integration of local heritage architecture with a contemporary feel in its present day as was intended. Capitalizing on the spatial opportunities, heights for views and climate of the site with internal and external courtyards and tall openable cottage pane windows with high ceilings. A seamless architecture for the hospitable Johannesburg climate and complimentary to the typically indoor-outdoor entertainment oriented South African culture.