Swartberg House by Openstudio Architects
Karoo Desert, South Africa
Project size: 2,500 sf
Program: The clients wanted their home to bring them closer to the spectacular natural landscapes of the nearby Swartberg mountain range and Karoo Desert.
Location: The edge of the Great Karoo, a semi-desert region northeast of Cape Town
Solution: The home was designed with passive heating and cooling in mind. During the intensley hot summers, the thick-walled house can be shuttered closed, while in winter, the large openings act as sun catchers, allowing the dark brick floors to radiate stored warmth of the sun at night. Large glazed doors slide away into roughcast plaster walls. Small scattered openings (configured according to the positions of stars in constellations visible from look out points around the house) allow shafts of light to penetrate into shadows. The large elevated roof terraces offer sweeping views of the mountains, blurring the boundary between nature and everyday life.
Construction and materials: The use of brick, ash, local roughcast lime-washed plaster, and white ceramic tiles harken back to the site’s previous use as a sheep farm. Patterned brick-on-edge floors and plaster walls and ceilings are used throughout exterior and interior spaces, creating ambiguity between inside and out. Finely detailed joinery, made in oiled ash, acts as a counterbalance to the more robust materials, differentiating between the sculptural qualities of the solid structure and the elements made to be touched and used on a daily basis.
Completion date: 2015
Total project cost: $250,000
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
H de Villiers Builders
Richard Davies and Louis Botha
Plaster, local bricks, and Stoneform concrete