Client: Gerrit Jordaan.
Situated on a sheer slope, the 4164m² site overlooks Pretoria CBD and the Union Buildings to the north. It is bordered on three sides by stand alone houses, and busy Berea Street immediately to the north. A high concrete wall partially retains the northern edge. The client needed a residential development of eight units, each roughly 350m² in size. While being comfortable and top-quality, low maintenance and environmental awareness had to drive design decisions. The design also had to respond to the distinctiveness of the site, within a stone’s throw of the bustling city of Pretoria.
Design decisions are ultimately rooted in a response to site topography, local material, climate and ecology. Views toward the city also played a major role in design strategies. The design draws on local examples such as presented in the work of one of Muckleneuk’s favoured sons, Norman Eaton (1902-66). His buildings were always oriented north, he used local materials and sought textures that hailed the continent.
Exposure to the equatorial window caused weighing up of various orientation alternatives. Ultimately, instead of terracing the site and allowing cars to access it, a basement was tucked underneath the terrain. This was simplified by the dramatic slope of the site. In addition, units were turned along a north-south axis – ensuring constant views of the city without compromising privacy. While each unit would step along the slope of the site, making each unique; these steps would also allow northern exposure. A central elevator and staircase lead from the basement to a centrally located entrance, which is also accessible by pedestrians entering from street level. Each one of the units is then accessed along a textured pedestrian pathway.
Thresholds respond to the site, creating anticipation for the expected views. Upon entering, ceilings are slightly lower while spaces feel enclosed. These gradually open onto the views, while becoming both lighter and more spacious. The drama ultimately resolves in the double-volume living room spaces with views onto the city, so that the scale of living areas responds to that of the city.