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House Louw - Gravity and Light
Waterkloof, Pretoria, Gauteng

Johannes Rienk BURG: Architect 1910
Nicholas John CLARKE: Heritage Architect

Date:1910 : c2017
2017PIA Award for Architecture
2018SAIA Award of Merit

Award of Merit Citation

The idea of authenticity, in whatever form it presents itself, could be viewed as one of the most fundamental concepts and experiences in architecture. When a building starts its life with revivalist stylistic references, the linage to the core ideas and circumstances that gave the initial impetus to its making becomes somewhat tenuous with regard to this idea of authenticity. Yet, on the contrary, it should also be acknowledged that in the more recent understandings of architecture it is accepted that the so-called hybrid building, which is the result of many sources of inspiration, can be viewed as equally 'authentic'. It is then accepted that as long as each historical layer in the evolution of buildings can be experienced as true to the thinking of its time and as long as the combined approaches make sense in its totality all seems to be fine. What is more important, however, is the fact that all decisions should be made in terms of a clear idea and sound considered professional judgment, sensitively and respectfully applied.

The heritage consultant on the project ascribes the original design of the house to the architect JR Burg. Its time of construction is likely to be 1910 — the year that the Union of South Africa came into being. This consultant is also furthermore of the opinion that the house is an early example of the Cape Dutch Revival style in the northern parts of South Africa. This house was extensively altered in 2006 leaving little of the original building. Since 1910 until the present; much has also changed in Pretoria and in the suburb. The original stand of the house has mostly been reduced by subdivision, obliterating much of the spatial generosity of the original approach to the house.

When W Design Architecture was appointed for this project, the architects decided to remove all additions and elements that were not reinforcing the original design idea of the house. To this framework, they sensitively added elements to the building to elevate it to a situation and standard that is currently expected to represent (relative) luxurious living conditions.

They have defined their approach to the design with the words 'Gravity and Light'. This meant for them that the old structure was restored to express its original 'heaviness' while the new additions were expressed as light, transparent and minimalist. The result is a totally new building where the layers of history are experienced for what they are and where the transformed building has become a totally new building. The thoughtful combination of all these actions has given this home a new 'persona' that can be experienced as a quietly dignified space. In terms of the thoughts previously mentioned, this building is now truly a hybrid, but a hybrid of the most inspiring kind. The attention to detail is obviously of the highest order. The intrinsic value of the old house has been beautifully retained while invigorating it with a new life.

Writings about this entry

South African Institute of Architects. 2018. Awards : South African Institute of Architects. Awards for Excellence, Awards of Merit, Regional Awards for Architecture 2017/2018. Cape Town: Picasso for SAIA. pg 54, 55 ill