street cred

A Jo­han­nes­burg ar­chi­tect reimag­ines his ranch-style fam­ily home by in­te­grat­ing it more fully into its lush ur­ban lo­cale


Wel­com­ing in its Jo’burg views, an ar­chi­tect’s home plays out in a sun-washed pal­ette of neu­tral tones

From the kitchen of ar­chi­tect ge­org van gass’s home in Vic­tory Park, Jo­han­nes­burg, he can look up, through a large slid­ing win­dow, across the street and the field op­po­site and down to the Braam­fontein spruit. Just on the other side of the spruit is a house he refers to as ‘gass’s Project 001’. It was his very first job af­ter he struck out on his own and started gass ar­chi­tec­ture stu­dios.

‘ever since we worked on that house, I’ve wanted to live on the spruit,’ he says. When his wife, rhoné, found this one on the op­po­site side of the stream from Project 001, they jumped at the chance. While the houses op­po­site back right onto the spruit, on this side, with the field and the moun­tain-bik­ing tracks, there’s more of a ‘pub­lic do­main’ as ge­org calls it.

glanc­ing again through the win­dows you can also see some of the iconic tow­ers that de­fine Joburg’s sky­line. ge­org has al­ways nursed ideas about liv­ing in the city,

and has long cham­pi­oned the im­por­tance of cre­at­ing safe pub­lic space around and be­tween build­ings.

The street life of the neigh­bour­hood was the per­fect cat­a­lyst for him to cre­ate the kind of house that lives by some of th­ese ideals. he was par­tic­u­larly pleased that, be­fore he even be­gan plan­ning a ren­o­va­tion, the house had one of the fea­tures he likes to in­clude in his own de­signs – it was right on the street, not set back be­hind a wall. This would al­low him to prac­tice what he preaches.

orig­i­nally the house was a typ­i­cal late six­ties/early sev­en­ties ranch-style house – a type that seemed al­most ubiq­ui­tous in Jo’burg at one point. While ge­org’s fa­ther was also an ar­chi­tect, he says he grew up in rather more ar­chi­tec­turally ec­cen­tric houses than his friends, but this one re­minded him of many houses he vis­ited grow­ing up.

ge­org was care­ful and re­strained in the way he re­con­fig­ured the in­te­rior, but has none­the­less man­aged to bring about quite a rev­o­lu­tion in its ap­pear­ance and work­ings. he’s moved the en­trance to the street and opened up the liv­ing areas to the beau­ti­fully treed gar­den at the back. To the façade, he added a retro-mod­ern

‘it’s made a mas­sive change to our lives hav­ing things open and en­gag­ing with the gar­den’

screen and squared off the street-fac­ing wall, giv­ing it a stip­pled Ty­rolean fin­ish. ge­org likes the tex­ture of Ty­rolean and its sense of or­ganic soft­ness. ‘I like ar­chi­tec­ture and build­ings that change – that show age, and age grace­fully,’ says ge­org.

In the opened-up liv­ing area, he’s pushed a large kitchen is­land out of the kitchen and to the front of the house.

It’s a cru­cial point from which to look out. ‘This is very im­por­tant for me, and part of that en­gage­ment with the

spruit,’ says ge­org.

Like­wise, the study-cum-guest-room he added above the garage has a glass box cor­ner that hangs out slightly over the drive­way. rhoné works mainly from this room, and loves the open­ness and light. a day bed in the sunny cor­ner un­der­lines its sta­tus as a favourite spot.

‘I usu­ally tell peo­ple you don’t need a sep­a­rate pa­tio,’ he says, pre­fer­ring to de­sign pavil­ion-like liv­ing rooms that open seam­lessly to the out­doors, con­vert­ing the liv­ing area in­stantly into a kind of in­door-out­door room. here, the pa­tio al­ready ex­isted, so he ex­tended it with a can­tilever. he com­pletely re­moved the wall be­tween liv­ing room and pa­tio, and re­placed it with glass doors that slide away com­pletely – he has used the pa­tio to stretch the liv­ing space out­wards when the doors are open. ‘It’s made a mas­sive change to our lives hav­ing things open and en­gag­ing with the gar­den,’ he says.

The fur­nish­ings are al­most all pro­to­types of their fur­ni­ture de­sign stu­dio, goet. The join­ery, wood­turn­ing and laser-cut steel de­signs that are their hall­marks are found all about the house, giv­ing it at once co­her­ence and a sense of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. cou­pled with their art col­lec­tion, the space has char­ac­ter and warmth, as well as a dis­tinc­tive iden­tity that only be­spoke fur­ni­ture can bring – even if ge­org thinks of it more as a test­ing ground.

It is in­deed a house full of ideas. he may al­most have given his chil­dren the con­ven­tional house he never had grow­ing up, but has man­aged to un­lock so much ar­chi­tec­tural po­ten­tial they’ll never know how close they came to an or­di­nary sub­ur­ban home. In the process, he’s man­aged to im­prove sub­ur­bia, too.

clock­wise, from top left the kitchen in­cludes two sec­tions – one part hid­den be­hind the ter­ra­cotta wall, and the kitchen is­land that ex­tends into the liv­ing area; the façade fea­tures a retro-mod­ern screen; the study-cum-guest-room

clock­wise, from top left the art in­cludes work by lehl­o­gonolo mashaba, wal­ter bat­tiss and sandile Goje; the pa­tio fur­ni­ture was de­signed by Ge­org for Goet; the black Zim­bab­wean leather Gran­ite kitchen is­land

from top Ge­org ex­tended the mas­ter bed­room by adding a Glass box with a slid­ing Glass door that opens it com­pletely to the Gar­den; the mas­ter en-suite

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