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RIVER HOUSE

The traditional double pitched roof is manipulated to create additional volume, accommodation and light for a holiday house on the banks of the Vaal River.

The house has been designed for week-end use and eventually early retirement for a family currently living in Johannesburg. The site is located on the Free State side of the Vaal River and has been extensively quarried for crusher run prior to the flood line being established in the 1970’s. This has resulted in much of the site being rendered unbuildable. The clients’ desire for a long, north facing, single storey structure with all rooms enjoying a view of the river resulted in the western edge of the house projecting over the flood line. The natural depression in the ground at this point was slightly lowered to serve as a carport.

The existing trees, flood line and contours provided the parameters for the positioning of the house and informed proposals for landscaping including the siting of a concealed access track to the boat launch which is located between two very tall existing trees.

The scullery, garage and staff quarters are docked perpendicularly onto the main house resulting in an arrival courtyard and a more sheltered private courtyard. The garage has doors on both sides, connecting the two courtyards and forms the ideal venue for informal activities such as table tennis matches and teenage discos.

A separate shed accommodates the clients inherited tractor, boat and various leisure equipment. It has been conceived as a utilitarian structure built by a local shed contractor and sited parallel to the line of approach towards the house. The projecting garage and staff wing further guide visitors towards the entrance. Here the roof is at its lowest in order to create a sense intimacy. Upon entering the volume of the living room rises upwards towards the sky, whilst the floor extends onto the patio.

The folded plane of the roof is functionally derived and aesthetically fine-tuned to create a modulated form that mirrors the horizon on the north but rises up to announce the house to visitors approaching from the south. Red, earth-coloured, brick walls without visible lintels and subtle window sills from a monolithic base capped by the thin metal plane of the roof.

The solar installation on the garage roof, the water tanks and tower are treated as straight forward exposed utilitarian elements, albeit sited with care. Rain water is used in combination with borehole water and is piped in a closed insulated system ensuring hot water on tap at any point. An outdoor bathroom off the main bedroom is simply housed in a corrugated metal enclosure which can be opened up to afford views of the river.

Project team: Thorsten Deckler, Anne Graupner, Carl Jacobs, Sue Groenewald, Eugene Cloete, Shameema Davids

Featured in Digest of South African Architecture, 2010

Photographed by Conrad Judson