For a discipline that creates such long lasting works, architecture has a surprisingly short memory. Architects and clients are as susceptible to fashions and fads as the rest of us, and so the hard found wisdom of what works in a certain area can be lost in a generation. Gass Architecture Studio has built a modernist house in Johannesburg that is stylish while staying true to its roots.
Westcliff Pavilion House sits on a ridge in a suburb outside of Johannesburg. The black steel-framed structure of this 2-bedroom house floats above the plot that it stands on. The steel was not only an aesthetic choice, but also practical as the site would be difficult to access for big construction vehicles. This house is decidedly modern, with almost all the facades glazed. The black frame helps to emphasize the geometric lines of the house against the organic trees, which in turn help shade the house from the harsh summer sun. Where not glazed, the frame is filled with a rough stone mosaic, a technique that is used quite extensively in the area. This stone was harvested on site and so the house really is part of its surroundings. The main stonewall floats above the ground making a dramatic entrance. The beautiful floor to ceiling windows of this house can slide away to open not only the living area, but also the bedrooms to the world outside. The bedrooms each sit on different ends of the house, giving occupants privacy while at the same time creating connections in the connecting living areas.
Getting the mix of style and heritage right is essential to making buildings sit comfortably in their surroundings. The stone used in Westcliff Pavilion House grounds it, and makes it exciting at the same time.