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House Jouissance

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