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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


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 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