Category: architecture

House Leech & Vaughan-Scott is a private residence, situated on the slopes overlooking Hout Bay in the Ruyteplaats Private Mountain Estate. 

The brief was for a contemporary, easy living home, with a high level of finishes and largely self-sufficient with regards services.

Contextual factors informing the design included the steep site, the requirement for a pitched roof and a lower than usual height restriction in the estate guidelines, North orientation to the back of the site, views across the bay to the South, and wanting to respond to the high mountains behind. The synthesis of these factors led us to the concept of a monopitch roof corresponding to the slope of the site up to the North, clerestory windows for North light and to catch mountain views, and the living area opening to both sides; to the views to the South, and shaded entertainment areas to the North. Wanting to avoid the feeling of disconnected floor levels levels I opted for splitting the levels, so that there are essential five levels, each only half a flight of stairs apart alternating off a central stairwell.           

Energy efficiency and self-sufficient sustainability played a central role. The windows are double glazed inward opening, with aluminium frames containing thermal breaks. There is a 3-phase grid tied Photovoltaic electric system with 90% of the electricity coming from solar. Borehole water supplies all of the water requirements; for irrigation, the pool and via an extensive filtering process is pumped into the house for all household and drinking water.  

There is a high level of technology integrated into the house; a smart home system provides control to all the lighting, appliances, door & gate control, as well as the PV system, security and irrigation.

The building structure is conventional brick and mortar, with elements of concrete frame and suspended concrete slabs, with a portal steel structure for the roof.


Habitat Deco & Construction

Consulting Engineers

Poise Consulting Engineers

Admirals View is a residential development of comprising of three buildings housing a total of 8 sectional title units, situated in the quiet seaside village of Brenton on Sea, near Knysna. 

The original four buildings on the site were destroyed in the Knysna Fire of 2017, and the brief was to re-design three buildings to replace these. This resulted in the very unusual circumstance of the trustees of a body corporate, for buildings that currently no longer existed, being the client for the re-build. It was unusual in that typically when designing a multi-unit residential project, the client would be a developer and the buildings’ occupants would only be involved in the later aspects of the design, for example choice of finishes or customizing interiors. In this instance the problem was that we had six different clients (two had two units each), each with their own preferences and tastes, to guide into a solution that everyone would be happy with, plus keeping a coherence to the design rather than having 6 different typologies of building.  

Whereas, under normal circumstances we pride ourselves on developing a unique architecture rooted in site and context without subscribing to a stylistic convention, in this instance we came to a conclusion that a stylisticly informed design would be the best resolution to the problem of having 6 vastly different clients for one project. With this approach we had only initially to get buy in from all on a look and feel of the whole project. 

Another factor to consider in the initial conceptualization was urban relationship to the surrounding properties. Although we were on Resort Zoned property, the surrounding properties were all residential in nature, so a residential scale development was deemed to be the most appropriate. After several meetings with the trustees of the body corporate and various proposal on an appropriate architecture, we settled on the typical ‘Cape Coastal’ vernacular – a residential style with roots in Victorian architecture, which has much precedent and popularity along the Garden Route coast.  The clients approved the proposal and the next step was to develop a set of design guidelines within which to work, and for the trustees to agree on – to keep an architectural  coherence to the project – which proved very useful during design development process, in for example keeping all windows to similar proportions when several clients were requesting all manner of shapes and sizes. 

Due to the immense time pressure to get the project completed; the clients has lost their homes in the fire, insurance had taken awhile to pay out, and their insurance cover for temporary accommodation while they re-built was running out – the entire project had to be fast tracked. And to accommodate a minimum construction time on site timber frame construction was decided on from the outset as the preferred construction technology. 

Timber frame as a method of construction intergrated well with Cape Coastal style, and fibre cement cladding, aluminium windows and doors, and pre-coated roofsheets were proposed to minimise maintenance. 

Computer modelling & presentation, for which we used Archicad, proved extremely useful in showing clients exactly what they were getting and enabling most changes to be made while still in the early design stages. As a result there were minimal variation orders made during the construction  phase. To enable fast tracking, we designed the timber walling and flooring structure using specialised timber detailing software, Archiframe. This enabled to contractor to pre-cut and pre-assemble the timber frame wall panels in a factory, needing only to be assembled on site.  


T & B Construction


Hofmeyr & Associates Consulting Engineers Knysna

The site, situated in Yzerfontein, slopes gently done to the South, looking out over Pearl Bay beach towards Dassen Island to the South West. The clients brief was to design a contemporary, spacious home, but one that could be built on a limited budget.

Yzerfontein is a small harbour town, approx 90km North of Cape Town on the West Coast, with its origins dating back to the 1930’s. It has, however, combined with its laid back beach town vibe, a sense of freshness and ‘newness’, as though it’s being newly discovered by many. It’s this sense of freshness which I took as my inspiration, the outcome of which allowed for a contemporary and laid back easy living ‘beach house’.

The first challenge, as often is the case with coastal homes, is that the sea views, prevailing winds and optimal orientation to north for natural sunlight are often at odds. In this case the sea views are to the South, which is also the direction where the predominent summer wind comes from, with much needed winter sunlight essentially to the ‘back’. Added to this, the second challenge was solving these problems while satisfying the brief of a contemporary spacious home on a ‘not-unlimited’ budget. 

The most cost effective way to build is to keep the shape fairly regular, by, for example using a simple rectangular shape rather than an L-shape plan. Also, the less complicated the roof, if this is possible in terms of the overall design, the better – both in terms of cost and the most effective waterproofing.

The solution then, was simple rectangular shape, elongated across the width of the site, to afford the living area, kitchen and all of the bedrooms views to the sea, with the service areas, namely the scullery and bathrooms, to the north. By sloping the roof of the main rectangular form containing the living area and bedrooms up to the North,  and covering the bathrooms and scullery with a lower roof, I simultanously created an added sense of spaciousness by increasing the interior volume and by the use of clerestory windows above the service areas roof will fill the home with low angle winter sunlight when it’s required. The eaves overhang of the main roof will prevent high angle summer sun from penetrating the building, which would of added uncomfortable heating.

To allow for outdoor entertaining on windy summer days, in addition to the sea side deck, there is also a deck to the North of the living area, with aligning sliding doors on both sides of the living area allowing for sea views though the narrowest portion of the house from the sheltered North side. To provide architectural interest, on an otherwise fairly simple building, I utilised different materials and textures. These further served to visually distinguish the various elements of the building; horizontal cladding  on the main rectangular from, vertical pre-coated corrugated zincalume cladding on the secondary form containing the services areas, and smooth painted surfaces around the raised walls of the main roof.

The structure is timber frame, highly insulated, on conventional concrete surface beds and foundations for the bathrooms and scullery, where the building is closest to the natural ground level, and on a suspended timber floor structure below the livng area and bedrooms, where the ground level slopes downwards. A suspended timber floor is the most cost effective way of building on a sloping site, as apposed to the otherwise extensive filling up and compaction that would be required for a concrete surface bed. In addition to the insulation, energy efficency is further enhanced by double glazing throughout. 

The clients are very happy with the outcome to date and house is due for completion by end March 2020.


Henton Homes

Consulting Engineers

Gadomski Consulting Engineers


Blackwood Studio is set high on the mountain slopes of Hout Bay with panoramic views across the valley to the mountains of the 12 Apostles.

It is an example of creating a generous and spacious interior living space with a small footprint – in this case with a building area of under 50 sq.m. The main rectangular form, with its high mono-pitched roof with clerestory windows along the back and large glass sliding doors along the front add to the sense of spaciousness. A secondary lower form along the back, with a lean-to roof, accommodates the kitchenette, a storage area (accessible from the outside & providing space for a future PV System), and the bathroom, keeping the main volume open and free of these ‘utility’ spaces. Even the bath, set in the corner of the main volume, doesn’t detract from the spaciousness as its sunken – set flush with the floor – so that one gets a clear view over it though the corner windows.

The structural system is timber frame on a suspended timber floor structure on timber posts, which was the ideal solution for the steep site. The deck steps 2 steps down from the main floor level, which had the dual purpose of bringing it closer to the natural ground level visually and dropping the balustrade handrail below ones line of site when taking in the valley views from inside. Sliding slatted timber shutters provide shading and privacy to the expansive glass sliding doors, doing away with the need for interior blinds or curtains.

Blackwood Studio is available for holiday rentals – Air BnB


Logo Homes


Poise Consulting Engineers

House Jouissance sits high on a hill in the Cape, overlooking the Sandvlei Estuary and False Bay. The client is an academic specialising in sustainable wastewater systems, and wanted a small contemporary house, with an even smaller footprint.

Due to the very steep site the house was conceived as a series of staggered levels cascading down the site. Whereas in modernism the floor plan was seen as the ‘generator’, ie one first got the plan right and everything else followed from that, often in contemporary architecture the section is the ‘generator’ ”. And it certainly was for this project. Even though it is relatively small in area it has 4 different levels internally – each connected to the next by half a flight of stairs.

With such small floor areas my strategy was to allow varying volumes contribute to the spacial quality more so than the plan layout. The floor to ceiling heights in each section are therefore vastly different; I used volume rather than floor space to achieve a sense of spaciousness in the living area, whereas the kitchen and bedroom above have low ceilings, but retain a sense of spaciousness by being open to the living area large volume.

Sustainability features include a dry composting toilet, solar water heating, a large rammed earth wall, double glazing, highly insulated timber frame walls, grey water irrigation and a green roof,

The structure though predominantly a steel portal frame, is a hybrid of materials, each selected for best fit for purpose. The structural steel frame allowed for minimal excavation and disturbance to the very steep site, allowing for the house to really ‘touch the earth lightly’. It also allowed for the realisation of a fairly complex design, as all of the exacting levels and dimensions of the structure were designed and later checked against the steel fabricators 3d model using Archicad software’s 3d modelling capabilities. This allowed for prefabrication of the portal frame structure, and once installed on site and contractors essential had the entire building set out in 3d – left only with having to fill in the gaps.

Lightweight timber frame walls integrate best with the steel structural frame and allow for highly insulated walls. The rammed earth wall provides thermal mass and serves to moderate internal temperatures. Conventional concrete and brickwork were used minimally, being utilised only for the bathroom floor on the lower level and, in combination with a rib & block slab, for the garage structure.


Henton Homes


Poise Consulting Engineers


Earthworks Magazine December 2016 House Jouissance


Site Plan

Living Level

Bedroom Level



The Project ‘Green Infrastructure’ emerged under the World Bank’s Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience of cities in Mozambique. Beira was identified as one of the pilot cities and the Green Infrastructure project was developed to respond to one of the major priorities of the city in regard to its climate resilience, aiming at an increase in the capacities of the Municipality to manage sustainable infrastructure. The project’s main focus on sustainable infrastructure investments is related to the Chiveve River and its surrounding green space, located in the city centre of Beira.

The Detailed Design was commissioned by KfW Bank and carried out by the consortium INROS LACKNER and CES Consulting Engineers Salzgitter. Urban Infrastructure measures were identified as a proposed exhibition centre, a new market, a restaurant & events building, and a commercial centre at the botanical gardens. The two latter buildings were also to be major points of entry to the green space.   We were appointed as sub-consultants to CES Consulting Engineers Salzgitter, and worked in collaboration with architect Jose Callado PhD, who was the Team Leader.

Jose Callado and his team focused on the exhibition centre and market, and our work was focused on the restaurant and the botanical gardens building. The restaurant building site is on the corner of Av. Daniel Napatima and Rau da Beira Baixa and is a major entrance point to the park, by means of a cycling and pedestrian lane. It also sits as a junction or interface between the park and the built up urban environment. As a gateway to the park the building seeks to bridge the divide between urban and natural context.

The Botanical Gardens Building also serves as a main entrance point to the park, across from the historic Casa dos Bicos. The site runs along the river, with views across the park The Botanical Garden Buildings have two main nodes at either end: the Entrance, Café and Info Centre to the North and the Events Building to the East.  The commercial units between these form an open courtyard configuration, bounded by built structures on three sides and the river on the fourth.

Our design concept was to respond to the context and environment, rather than to historical or stylistic references. We aimed therefore to develop a site-specific architectural language rooted in its landscape. Design strategies, include, inter alia, long horizontal lines, an intimate internal space that opens up to nature on the park side, and responding to nature by being fragmented and layered. Strategies to blur the threshold between interior and exterior spaces include corners that open out to embrace the external space, filtered light from screens, and the fragmented and layered nature of the facades.

The design had a special emphasis on responding to the high humidity and salinity of the air and the increased temperatures. Adequate, resistant timber and metal elements were studied, besides the use of concrete. In order to reduce a heat-up effect of buildings, the placement was considered, as well as natural ventilation through the roof structure and screens

The predominant structural system of the Restaurant Building, including the roof, is a steel portal frame on concrete columns with a concrete ringbeam. The service areas and ablutions are conventional masonry construction. The predominant visual features are timber.

At the Botanical Gardens Building the service areas and ablutions with the park administration offices above, as well the service area of the Café and Events Centre and the Store are conventional masonry construction. The buildings housing the commercial units, comprising the bulk of the structure and the predominant façade onto the courtyard, as well as the public areas of the Events Hall are timber construction, along with all of the pergolas and screens.

The roof structure over the park administration offices and commercial units is timber, with a steel portal frame structure being utilised for the Café and Events Centre.

A modular design of the commercial units allows for adaptation to tenants’ needs, with timber frame dividing walls, allowing for the easy opening up two adjacent units to form a single larger units should this be required.

Our design for the proposed Stellenbosch Agricultural School consist of a loose arrangement of classrooms,  school administration buildings and dormitories around an open courtyard area.

The house is situated on the bank of the Breede River and is used as a holiday house. As such the clients wanted an open plan house with an easy flow, open to both the river on the South East and to the large garden area to the North West. We used a large open kitchen / dining/ living area, with double volume above the living area to create a sociable entertainment space which extends out onto decks on both sides. An open mezzanine above the dining area is an extension of the living space and looks over the living area internally as well as opens onto the 1st floor ‘viewing deck’ on the riverside. We had a limited budget and therefore building size to work within, so our challenge was to create an arrangement of spaces that maximised living and entertainment space, views and integration with the outdoor spaces and at the same time minimising the wastage of space typically taken up be circulation. The stairway to the 1st floor area is an open stair set as a feature in the living space rather than in a stairwell and the ground floor bedrooms and bathrooms were arrange to keep the space used by passages to an absolute minimum.


Henton Homes


Poise Consulting Engineers


ITC-SA 2015 Timber Engineered Product Awards – Gold

The residence is situated in the Machangulo Private Nature Reserve, on pristine Machangulo peninsula in Southern Mozambique. The main unit is tucked into the contours of the site looking out over the bay to the north, with a separate bedroom unit lower down the slope nestled in tightly amongst the natural vegetation.

The design concept was to have the buildings rooted in the context of the site, and so doing allow them to visually express their response to the context and climatic conditions. At the main unit a solid spine wall anchors the building, visually and structurally, to the site – and protects the open living areas from the cold southern wind and rain. In an climate that predominantly doesn’t require enclosure, the main living area remains open to the views to the north and east, with roll down awnings for the north sea breeze when required. A thorough visual impact study was undertaken with 3d modelling during the design process, to ensure that the units were to remain visually well tucked in amongst the vegetation and that the roof of the main unit would not disturb the skyline. Instead the intention was that the roof be level with, and seen as an extension of the canopy of trees to the south and west of the house.

In both units, the doors slide into cavity walls, so that with no glass visible the interior is seamlessly integrated with the exterior. Sliding louvred shutters will provide the option of providing enclosure with ventilation, and allow  the owners to completely close off the units when away.

Vista Abril offers a very private and exclusive holiday getaway for couples, groups of friends or adventurous families.

Vista Abril



VM Construction


Young and Satharia Consulting Structural and Civil Engineers

Agodi Gardens is a park in Ibadan, Oyo Province, Nigeria. We were part of the professional team led by consultants Earthworks Landscape Architects, in a programme to re-develop the park. As infill to the broader scope of work, which included large re-planted areas, clearing and re-opening natural waterways, walkways and pedestrian bridges, open picnic areas and a waterpark with slides and pools, we provided architectural services for the buildings within the park. This included the entrance building with food courts and outdoor covered seating areas, ablution buildings and the pool area entrance and change room building.

The buildings structural type is hybrid timber and blockwork. The food court has a glass and timber post and beam facade, with the kitchens and service areas built of concrete blockwork. Floating roofs, supported on tree-like structural posts provide shade and shaded filtered light to the outdoor seated areas.



Young and Satharia Consulting Structural and Civil Engineers

Situated on a steep slope over looking the Paarl valley, House Goosen is a combination of masonry construction, steel portal frames and timber framing.

The design draws from typical Cape Coastal architecture, with its dual pitch roofs and the front ‘stoep’ under the ‘afdak’ but using clean lines and minimal styling for a contemporary look. The architectural style departs from the Cape Coastal internally, with the entire living area being in one open plan volume. To achieve structural integrity with timber frame and the large open internal volume steel portal frames were used as the structural system. The contemporary styling is enhanced by leaving the structural elements exposed.

This is our first project designed in accordance with the new SANS 204 Energy Efficiency regulations, and the house features double glazing throughout, with sliding screens to control solar heat gain as well as to provide privacy.


The building methodology is a mix of post & beam and conventional timber framing. The living area has solid timber elements provide a logical clarity in the structure, with infill panels of either timber frame clad with fibre cement cladding or  glazed elements. With a singular plane roof over the most part of the house, differing floor levels provide hierarchy to the internal spaces. Large opening sliding and sliding folding doors make the most of the rural landscape.

Situated in the Swartland area of the Western Cape, large overhangs serve to protect from the harsh summer sun. The next phase is the addition of sliding and tilting shutters to the eastern and northern facades.


Knysna Timber Homes


Poise Consulting Engineers


ITFB Silver Award 2012


Home  January 2014  Nature at it’s best


Floor Plan



Proposal for a new house near Cape Town

House Carstens is in a Nature Conservancy area near Cape Agulhus, at the southernmost tip of Africa.

The house was designed for a challenging steep sandy site, in notorious weather conditions due to it’s exposed location at the tip of Africa. The main kitchen, living areas and main bedroom are on the first floor to maximise views sea views. Covered verandas, opening up to the living area with sliding doors, to both the south and north allow for outdoor living in either of the predominant weather conditions, namely summer south easters, and cold north western in the winter months.


Henton Homes


ITFB  Silver Award 2013


Building contractor: Pine Homes

The house was designed for comfortable beach living, to maximise sea views to the south and out to the bay and point to the southwest, and to allow for maximum penetration of winter sunlight from the north. Horizontal forms and gently sloping mono-pitch roofs resonate with the gently sloping and undulating form of the landscape. To minimise visual impact up from the coast, the major portion of the south façade is shaded, and the colour palette was chosen to blend in with the vegetation and sand.

The house has split levels, which allow it to step down the slope following the contours of the site. Appropriate responses sought to resolve the issues of north light from behind the house, the prevailing winds, and maximising views include covered outdoor deck areas to both the north and the south of the house, and elongating the plan form on an east west axis.

The house is ‘off-grid’ and power is produced by photovoltaic panels, with a battery pack and inverter, and a silent running generator providing backup power should there not be sufficient sunlight for several days. Hot water is heated by means of a Vacuum Tube solar panel, and is circulated by a small pump also powered by a photovoltaic panel. The sewerage has been split into grey and black water and the plan is to recycle the grey water for re-use. Rainwater is harvested from the roof, with all the downpipes leading to horizontal storage tanks fitted below the house.


SA Timber Homes & Projects, Issue 11, 1/2008  House Orban



This project was done with Tracey and Donald Brink while I was a partner at Tradon Architects & Consultants       (now Brink Architects) in Knysna.


Building Contractor: Knysna Timber Homes

The design concept was informed by the clients brief of maximising views of the Knysna estuary to south, the site presenting the constraints of being narrow and steeply south sloping, and our aim of maximising north light in winter to what would otherwise have been a cold south facing house. Contextual issues resulting from the steep southward slope of the site largely drove the resultant design. To remain within the regulation 8m height restriction offset vertically from all parts of the natural ground level, the pitch of the mono-pitch roof forms closely corresponding the slope of the ground below. To maximise views to the south and light from the north the house was spread over the full width of the site in an east west direction.

The house is a hybrid of timber frame and conventional masonry construction. The bathrooms, kitchen and garage above are on the north side. As a result of the slope and to facilitate solar passive heating and cooling the southern section of the house is constructed with well insulated timber frame construction, elevated above the ground on posts, while the northern service elements of the building, which were cut into the site, are built of conventional masonry construction, which serves as a massing element to take advantage of diurnal temperature fluctuations.

The house sits tightly nestled in amongst the vegetation and the decks were built to accommodate a large Fig tree whose branches have been allowed to continue through openings in the decking. Following the contours of the site closely the double storey house has split levels on each floor all connected via a central open stairwell.

House Hussey was designed by Jacques Cronje he was while a member of Tradon Architects and Consultants cc.


SA Timber Homes & Projects magazine Summer 2007 House Hussey



This project was done with Tracey and Donald Brink while I was a partner at Tradon Architects & Consultants       in Knysna.

The predominant structural material used was SA Pine, with roughsawn ‘wany edge’ planks used for the external cladding. An exception to this was the bathroom areas to the cabins, which were built on concrete foundations with stone clad brick walls.

The wany edge boards were ‘as they come’ from the sawmill, without any planing or finishing, giving a rough bush lodge feel to the exterior. The interiors were however, finely detailed and finished, to provide sleek and luxurious accomodation.





Tofo, Mozambique

This is also a totally off the grid. An interesting design challenge was intergrating the PV panels into the traditional Mocambican that roof.

The walls were done as an insulated panel covered in ply sheathing, with reflective foil insulation to the outside. This is covered by timber cladding on battens creating an open cavity where warm air can rise up behind of the cladding and out of the wall. The client recently informed me that walking in to the house on a day of 30deg outside felt like walking into a cool air-conditioned space.

Published | Online  awe-inspiring thatched mozambique home is draped in solar panels

Published | Print Media 

Timber IQ Magazine Dec 2012  House Wessels