"Back To Nature"

Published in Garden & Home Magazine, September 2014.

Text credit: Natalie Boruvka.

"Despite a challenging site this home in the Meyersdal Eco Estate successfully employs principles of passive design to make the most of its beautiful north-facing views

THE ARCHITECT: Hugo Hamity Architects
THE CLIENT: Semi-retired family business owners, Ian and Pam Beswick
THE CLIENT’S BRIEF: A single storey open plan north-facing home that would marry comfortably with its natural surrounds
THE HOUSE: A contemporary wood, brick and glass structure that takes in views of the reserve from decking leading off living areas and bedrooms

 Link: House Beswick 

or Buy the Plans Here

When planning a house situated in 400 hectares of undulating grassland filled with a diversity of fauna and flora it seems logical that the design is going to attempt to optimise views wherever possible. This was certainly the objective for Ian and Pam Beswick who decided to build in the Meyesrdal Eco Estate which forms part of the Klipriviersbery Nature Reserve in Joburg’s south. “As we travel a lot we wanted to return to a home that would in every way celebrate the wonderful natural environment we have chosen to retire in,” says Ian. After much research the two homes that appealed to the couple the most were designs by architect Hugo Hamity. “We really enjoyed the fact that despite being contemporary and unique, the houses were not inappropriate but managed to harmonise successfully with their surrounds,” recalls Ian.
The Beswicks also wanted a design that would promote energy efficiency by means of the amount of sunlight it could capture. “The single most important passive design element of a house is its true north orientation for sunlight and heat in winter complimented by an east-west axis linear arrangement for ventilation in summer,” explains Hugo. The site he faced was tricky: it had a north entry characterised by a slope which fell against the direction of the sun to the south and it featured a prominent rocky outcrop. Hugo’s response was to position the east-west axis just behind the rocky feature so that the open plan living areas and the main bedroom have north-facing views directly onto the nature reserve whilst the outcrop provides an element of privacy for private decks and gardens leading off the two guest bedrooms. “This linear composition ensures that no room encroaches on either the views or the quantity of sunlight of another,” says Hugo.
In order to optimise solar penetration the layout was designed in two sections. The front northern section accommodates the bedrooms and living areas and the back southern section functions as a service spine housing circulation, bathrooms and the kitchen and scullery. Following this, the front roof is pitched at 5 degrees whilst the back roof is at an angle of 30 degrees. “The reason for this,” explains Hugo, “is so that clerestory opening windows could be placed on the break between the two roofs allowing sunlight into the back service rooms along the spine as well as providing a quick means of ventilation by natural rising suction.” In addition the house’s roof overhangs were calculated to allow for maximum sunlight to enter into the house in winter while keeping the sun out of the house in summer.
The building materials chosen play an important role in responding to the aesthetic of the Beswick’s brief. Whilst the northern elevation of glass sliding doors and windows welcome generous views of the estate, the warm tones of the laminated saligna structure, areas of facebrick and balau decking enable the house to integrate almost seamlessly with the surrounding natural palette.
“Living in this house is even better than we had hoped,” Ian and Pam agree. “Not only does it offer us a comfortable interior environment that adapts with the change in seasons, we delight in our own mongoose family and the dozens of birds that visit as well as the numerous game species which often come to say hello.”



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