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House Claassens
Brooklyn, Pretoria, Gauteng

People:

John Barry CLAASSENS: Architect

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Date:pre 1969
Client:Self
Type:Homestead
Status:Extant

House Claassens (now House WEGELIN) was a meritorious design by the architect for himself and family in the late 1960s when there was a dearth of awards made by the then ISAA. It is of the stripped modern flat-roof tradition but executed in the idiom of Pretoria Regionalism, with bagged and white-painted stock brick. Originally it had a two storeyed fish-tank in the atrium that extended to, and was visible from, the upper storey main bedroom. This is hardly surprising as Claassens was at the time architect to the new aquarium built at the Pretoria National Zoological Gardens. The house has decorative pottery incorporated into the fabric of the building by the renowned South African ceramicist, Esias Bosch, done in exchange for monies owed.

Wegelin has made the house his own with sympathetic re-planning and alterations, making himself and his wife and five student tenants guinea-pigs to his 'architrix', particularly in the application of innovative 'green' technologies. The hot water system is fed through vacuum-tube solar heaters, an early use of a now ubiquitous system. The fish-tank has been sacrificed but the armour glass cut into shelving to display the fine coloured glassware collection. The atrium has been roofed over and has a centrally located Jetmaster hearth with its flue through a glass pyramidal skylight over the once impluvium. Wegelin has added the storey over the double carport, a studio for his wife, and replicated the spiral stair in the main house of precast concrete winders. Wegelin has taken a leaf from BIERMANN in the latter's design of his own house and used fiber-cement pipes with glass siliconed directly on top to create skylights in the stairwell to the studio. The concrete roof is now clad in ceramic tiles stuck to foam polythene board underlay, another Wegelin experiment, acting as thermal isolator on the concrete roof. More recently Wegelin has replaced an iron roofed section with concrete to increase thermal mass in the atrium and created a clever solar collector to the deep northern beam of the pergola, a rock-wool backed and polycarbonate vaulted sun heat catcher which has the heated air pumped into the living areas in winter by day.

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.

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