WORDS Adele de Lange IMAGES Dook PRODUCTION Annemarie Meintjes
With flowing lines and monochrome hues, this generous Pretoria family home lets the outdoors take centre stage as it threads its roots deep into the heart of a mountain.
“Our journey on this project started with a phone call, which turned into a fascinating conversation,” says architect Greté van As of meeting the owners of this striking home for the first time. Having distilled their passion for balance between nature, people and architecture into an award-winning signature style, architectural duo Johan Wentzel and Greté van As of W Design Architecture Studio were, she says, thrilled at the opportunity to design a new residence for a like-minded family on one of the last pieces of pristine bushveld in Pretoria.
Blessed with spectacular views towards the north, and with the magnificent Bronberg Mountain as a backdrop, the architects were inspired to design a home that would merge unobtrusively into this very unique landscape. “We challenged ourselves to leave behind the smallest of footprints while introducing built structures into the sensitive surroundings,” Johan says.
Fortunately, a portion of the indigenous brush had already been disturbed at the base of the mountain, which became the perfect spot for further man-made meddling. The entire house was designed as a series of terraces originating from this base, climbing gradually up the mountain to make the most of the views. “Despite the rather large accommodation brief, we wanted to create intimate spaces – each with its own unique sense of identity, and each retaining its own direct connection to the mountain and the views,” says Johan.
Viewed from the top, the house again becomes one with nature as each indoor space flows seamlessly into the outdoors. Surrounded by nature on all sides, it comes complete with an indigenous roof garden to reclaim the natural landscape when viewed from above. “This is one of the things I love most about the house – the bottom levels disappear completely from view as they become a part of the landscape again,” says Johan.
Despite being hidden from view, the pavilions are all interconnected internally through a series of discreetly placed staircases and glazed sliding doors, allowing nature to weave and flow continuously through each space from one tier to the next.
Throughout the construction process, the owners made it clear that the existing fauna and flora would come first, and moved not a single tree from its original location. Carrying this theme into the interior of the house, the detailing and finishes were kept clean-cut and minimalist. Monochrome hues and natural materials further define the interior style.
“With nature being the artwork here, we styled the house to complement it, rather than compete with it,” Greté explains. “Even the furniture is entirely arranged towards the views.”
Regardless of the simplicity of the design, there’s a tangible sense of drama that compels the eye to look again. From the bedrooms, tufts of grass wave unassumingly over an impossibly clear drop of blue skyline; in the kitchen, the mountain seems on the verge of jumping through the window; and in the living room, the concrete roof garden defies gravity by floating on little more than thin air.
With its sensitive approach towards nature and its sophisticated simplicity, this house deservedly received a Pretoria Institute for Architecture award in 2019.