[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]his proposed residential development in Muckleneuk, Pretoria features eight terrace units, each covering an area of 350sqm over two stories. Designed by SA-based Holm Jordaan Architects (now New Urban Architects), the development was responds to the nature the site, most especially its climate, topography and location offering homes of high quality and comfort but low maintenance.
Each unit in the development features basement parking that frees up the ground plane, double-volume living room spaces with natural light and cross ventilation as well as the use of local material such as brick and the reuse of existing doors and windows from a dilapidated house on the site. Rain water harvesting to be stored in the basement, grey water recycling and solar hot water/energy have also been considered for each of the units.
Situated on a sheer slope, the 4164sqm site overlooks Pretoria CBD and the Union Buildings to the north. It is bordered on three sides by stand alone houses, and busy Berea Street immediately to the north. A high concrete wall partially retains the northern edge. The client needed a residential development of eight units, each roughly 350m² in size. While being comfortable and top-quality, low maintenance and environmental awareness had to drive design decisions. The design also had to respond to the distinctiveness of the site, within a stone’s throw of the bustling city of Pretoria.
Design decisions are ultimately rooted in a response to site topography, local material, climate and ecology. Views toward the city also played a major role in design strategies. The design draws on local examples such as presented in the work of one of Muckleneuk’s favoured sons, Norman Eaton (1902-66). His buildings were always oriented north, he used local materials and sought textures that hailed the continent.
The section of the house steps down with the site, allowing dramatic double-volume. The basement parking is tucked below the development and out of sight. Privacy is maintained. Bedrooms are “pulled” apart on the first floor to allow sun exposure and ventilation, making the units seem bigger than they are.
Exposure to the equatorial window caused weighing up of various orientation alternatives. Ultimately, instead of terracing the site and allowing cars to access it, a basement was tucked underneath the terrain. This was simplified by the dramatic slope of the site. In addition, units were turned along a north-south axis – ensuring constant views of the city without compromising privacy. While each unit would step along the slope of the site, making each unique; these steps would also allow northern exposure. A central elevator and staircase lead from the basement to a centrally located entrance, which is also accessible by pedestrians entering from street level. Each one of the units is then accessed along a textured pedestrian pathway.
Thresholds respond to the site, creating anticipation for the expected views. Upon entering, ceilings are slightly lower while spaces feel enclosed. These gradually open onto the views, while becoming both lighter and more spacious. The drama ultimately resolves in the double-volume living room spaces with views onto the city, so that the scale of living areas responds to that of the city.