Birdhaven Home

WORDS Michaela Stehr PRODUCTION Klara van Wyngaarden PHOTOS Dook

An award-winning family home in the heart of Birdhaven, Johannesburg brings space, volume and greenery into its core, while keeping every space accessible from the heart of the living hub.

Creating a sense of awe and occasion in a family home is no easy feat.

For David Hollis, founder of Arch3D Architects, the approach to this brief was all about the juxtaposition of materials and designing a visual feast for the senses. After visiting the owners’ previous home, he noticed the lack of volume and layering. “Each space merged into another, with no identity,’’ David says. “I wanted to play with volume here, and bring the excitement of creating a unique feeling of space within each function of the home, but still maintain that easy, flowing openness.” An amalgamation of these concepts has resulted in a space that allows for both family interaction and for refuge, based around a central statement hub.

The home lives in harmony with its surroundings.

Celebrating volume also allows for large vertical planes, perfect for displaying the owners’ art collection. Walking into the home, you are immediately struck by the use of complementary materials – concrete, timber, steel, glass. David’s main aim was to keep the walls sculptural and striking enough to exist without anything on them, for the home to speak volumes as a stand-alone creative space. “The project started off with a desire to build a house that gave us more space as a growing family, but it was important that we did not get lost in the space,” explain the homeowners. “We were nervous of creating something in which the family actually became disconnected because of a rambling design – so our initial brief was to build a large house that lives small.”

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With large, steel-framed glass “walls” in the living room, supported by concrete columns, David managed to blur the lines between the interior and exterior, and pull the considered landscaping to the forefront. The green elements are pops of urban jungle throughout the home, with a floor-to-ceiling living wall taking pride of place in the living room; it also effectively dampens sound and manages acoustics in the large area. “It’s light and airy, with high ceilings and lots of greenery,”say the homeowners.“ Nature is a source of endorphins for us, hence the green wall and swathes of glass.”

A floating concrete staircase emphasises the angular lines presented in the architecture. It leads upstairs to the bedrooms, main bathrooms and study, all of which overlook the centre without imposing on the area. “We wanted a home where every space was used – a home that made the most of the beautiful weather in Johannesburg, and that allowed for shared spaces while also offering the ability to find a quiet, secluded pocket somewhere,” the homeowners say. “We wanted a place where we could entertain friends and family, no matter the weather conditions.”

Striking a balance between opening the home out towards the James & Ethel Gray Park across the road – and the views – but still maintaining a sense of privacy and security was also a priority for David. This resulted in positioning the home strategically to the rear of the site. The natural elevation created opportunities for a visual connection between the designated spaces of the home and the park. The driveway, car court and raised entrance court were created as a series of nodes to further heighten the sense of journey and occasion on arrival, with views from the street giving little away.

The result is a suburban oasis that brings a family together by embracing architecture, design and nature in equal measure. Recognised at the 2021 Gauteng Institute for Architecture Awards, the home is the recipient of an Award of Excellence, with the judges describing it as a residence that “can be celebrated for ticking all the right boxes in terms of sustainability, striking appeal, conceptual strength, technical execution and practical functionality”.

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