Award of Merit Citation
The rolling and oddly beautiful landscape between the northern parts of Johannesburg and the southern boundaries of the Pretoria region where this house is situated is rapidly being filled up with an assortment of 'paint-by-numbers' elements of suburban land uses. These are usually enclosed residential estates, shopping centres, office parks, industrial estates, and smallholdings with some informal settlements also in the mix. This urban fabric is held together by a series of highways and regional routes.
In this strange mix, it is very difficult to find a restful place to truly 'dwell' in the landscape, to feel at home and to experience life's idealism, as expressed in built form, as meaningful.
Somehow it is not difficult to sense and argue that the feeling of permanence and meaning is what the client, the Schütte/Estment family and their architect, Kate Otten, achieved with this building. When the client's desire for the home is scrutinised against the built evidence as designed and realised by the architect and builders, it is astounding how close the match is. It truly seems to be a meeting of minds, professional expertise and dreams in this building.
The clients found their 'Eden' on the banks of the Jukskei River that traverses this secure estate. The view from this sloping site is towards the east and towards the relatively pristine riverine eco-system. The rectangular site has its short sides towards the north and south. To maximise the contact with the river landscape and the north orientation, the architect devised an E-configuration plan form. This enabled a spine connector to the west with shorter elements jutting out to the east that allow for the desired north orientation with courtyard spaces in between.
Material selection displays this desire to connect to the land — specifically, the dramatic earth construction wall forming the west facade — in every detail, big or small. All effort was made, in terms of sustainability, to be off the grid as much as possible.
This house has a luxury few can attain and even fewer desire — that is space. The voluminous rooms are full of space — almost 'empty' and filled with light. Almost all of them are beautifully connected to the outdoor environment. The building has a farmlike quality evoked by its direct, robust and thoughtful detailing.
The client congratulated the architect, Kate Otten, for truly listening to them when they expressed their desires for this building. She, in turn, translated those into a building that can also inspire the architectural community as well as the client who lives there daily.
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