location: The Hills Eco Estate, Mooikloof – Pretoria East | architecture: JK Designs – www.jkdesigns.co.za | interior design: JK Designs | photography: Juane Venter – www.juaneventer.com

Located inside an established eco-residential estate, this stand is nestled in an area where wildlife roams free between the properties, while it enjoys expansive views over most of Pretoria East. The clients wanted a design that would invite this enviable indigenous landscape into their new build. The result is a structure of over 800 square metres on land measuring 1 200 square metres.

Architect Johann Koch recalls: ‘Their prerequisite was for a light-filled home with plenty of glass, and yet there was a need to maintain control of the interior climate. They appreciate the modern farm style / industrial design language that is supported by the estate’s aesthetic guidelines and we were encouraged to include red face brick, steel, glass and timber.

‘The clients enjoy entertaining, which drew creative focus to the format of the main living area. These interconnected spaces are ideal locations in which to host a multitude of events and the easy transition between the spaces maintains a focus on the views.’

This home maximises both vistas of the immediate surroundings and those distant. A good measure of privacy is preserved within, despite being an open space accentuated by high ceilings and over-sized windows. To remain within the limits of the building guidelines set out by The Hills, the architects had to push boundaries, but there are no boundary walls, so that wildlife can come as close to the house as possible. It was also important that the layout be practical, not only aesthetically appealing from the outside; it was therefore virtually conceptualised from the inside out.

Says Johann Koch: ‘The site allowed for a perfect north orientated location that faces the spectacular views and is one of the highest on the estate, which means that every interior space can enjoy these. The main living areas open up entirely to fresh breezes in the warmer months, while the boma and swimming pool are a feature area and part of the structure’s frontal elevation.’

The use of materials is uncomplicated and natural. Red brick reflects the colours of the stone in the region, which was used for accent cladding. A combination of strong reds, plus light and dark greys complements the areas of glass that form the façade. This adds to the honesty of the building, which architect Koch says has ‘nothing to hide’.

An initial challenge was the location. The site sat on a rocky outcrop and from the outset, it was obvious that this would be very costly to excavate and / or blast. So the design was neatly positioned around and on top of the rocks to minimise unnecessary removal. Most of the stone that had to be removed was reused by skilled labourers for the plinth cladding and gabion walls.

Further, being atop this rocky outcrop created exposure to strong afternoon winds. These are primarily experienced from the south so the building was designed in an L-shape with the back point directly facing south. This orientation means that the wind is pushed past the built structure on either side, creating a protected cove in the patio and boma area.

‘And yet it was necessary to remove more than 300 tons of rock before laying foundations,’ Johann Koch adds. ‘This was a considerable poser as the use of an excavator was not permitted for fear of causing too much damage to the roads in the eco part of the estate, as well as being very costly. Chemical blasting was, therefore, the solution.’

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Bearing in mind these natural challenges, what did the architects want to achieve from the overall project and how was this formulated?

Joann Koch summarises: ‘From the outset we opted for a light touch to let the views and the landscape determine the layout, i.e. for the design to respect and work with the exterior. This was an exciting project and we enjoyed watching it evolve.

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‘The same principles extended to the interior. There were multiple people involved in a  design brief, which was primarily for simplicity and understatement. The owners didn’t want to distract from the views by having an overcomplicated interior, so the finishes are simple and monotoned with furniture selected to reflect the architectural signature.’

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