Tag: Contemporary timber architecture

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.


Contractor: MG Projects

The site is north facing so the house is perfectly orientated to north. Due to the lack of available services on the site the client opted for a totally of grid house. PV panels provide electricity with a backup generator. Water is extracted from a borehole and there is a biolytical sewerage treatment system.

The house is super insulated with double glazing throughout to minimize any load on the PV system in terms of heating or cooling requirements


Technology in Architecture & Design magazine July / August 2012    TIMBER_FEATURE TIA 2012