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House Staude
Melville, Johannesburg, Gauteng

People:

Kate OTTEN: Architect

Date:1995
Type:Homestead
Style:Contemporary
Status:Extant

The brief - light, space and volume - inspired this conversion of a very ordinary suburban house into a home and office for a client's creative publishing business. Although much of the existing house has been retained it is unrecognisable.

Timber frame construction was chosen for the first floor addition since a light weight structure was necessary on top of the existing building. Corrugated iron sheeting was chosen as cladding as a reference the materials historically used in the area. It is used vertically to accent height.

Materials used are left in their natural state - red plaster, galvanised corrugate iron sheeting, stainless steel, oxided plaster, wrought iron, glass and colourful mosaics.

Different textures and colours, the interplay of light and shadow and the way curved geometry's meet rectilinear ones, all add to the graphic quality of this house.

The house is situated on a ridge, thus by adding one storey even greater advantage can be taken of the north / south views and aspects. The curving roof line echoes the surrounding koppies while high level windows allow the roof to float above the planes of the building. By segmenting the curve, both bedroom suites get east light. The box gutters over the entrance hall become roof lights giving this space filtered light.

The approach at the lowest level exposes the rock on which the building is built and presents separate entrances to the offices and cottage as well as to the house. A curved ramp leads you to the front door which is marked by pairs of double height columns supporting high gutters and a balcony. The balcony squeezes out between the columns to cover the entrance.

The entrance hall is double volume with a layering of space - mosaic column bases grow towards the higher levels, the curved landing backs away from you. There are views through to the south and to the east and west through the living and dining rooms. There are always views out and through which extend the spaces and connect them to the garden. There are distant views to the koppies and views of the sky.

The floating curved ceilings of the first floor create an ethereal quality - the bank of cupboards in both dressing rooms appear as walls and the bathrooms as "cubes" over which the ceiling sails.

The office and cottage are entered separately. Both have private outdoor areas into which they connect. As with elsewhere in the house, all spaces, inside and out, have been planned and designed. The built-in furniture and fittings have also been designed and/or chosen by the architect specifically for the house. These create an air of eccentricity but simultaneously add to the coherent whole.

This building stands proudly on the ridge. It is elegant yet fun and well loved and lived-in.

(Kate Otten Architects)

Award of Merit Citation

This house is a piece of mature and sophisticated design from a young architect - an architectural delight and indulgence! The indulgence has however clearly been shared by the client who says "like some dreams, it turned into a technicolour fantasy" and has been fondly referred to as a 'shack sensation'. The 'house' is the conversion of a very ordinary little Melville house into a home and office for the client's creative publishing business. The brief - light space and volume - has been executed with great skill and exuberance.

The house is situated high on a ridge with views to the south and north which have been exploited to the full in the design. The approach at the lowest level exposes the rock on which it is built and presents three separate entrances to the house, the office and the domestic's cottage. The house perches above with a curving roof echoing the surrounding koppies and floating freely above the planes of the building.

Although much of the existing house has been retained it is unrecognisable. The first floor constructed out of timber framing and clad with corrugated iron sheeting adds to the rich feast of different materials all used and left in their natural state - oxided plaster, galvanised corrugated iron sheeting, wrought iron, glass and colourful mosaics. These materials are applied appropriately and confidently to demonstrate the different components of the house.

The house is small and tightly planned, yet has a spacious feel created by double volumes and windows which capture views of the outside - small courtyard and garden spaces, longer distance views to the koppies and views to the sky. Every square centimeter of the site has been planned, designed and utilised to good effect.

The built-in furniture and fittings have all been designed and/or chosen by the architect specifically for the house - wrought iron curtain rails, lamp fittings, balustrades, wooden cupboards and boxes and glass wash hand basins. All add to an air of eccentricity and yet are perfectly balanced. The attention to detail creates a coherent whole which is dynamic and exclusive but definitely fun and lived-in.

This is not a house which blends gently into its surroundings but stands proudly on the ridge waving playfully to those who care to look.

Architects notes and photographs submitted by William MARTINSON

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.

Writings about this entry

Muwanga, Christina. 1998. South Africa : a guide to recent architecture. London : Köln: Ellipsis : Könemann. pg 180-181

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