The Last Glass House

June 2014
  • Client: Roelof Petrus van Wyk
  • Location: Westcliff Drive, Parktown
  • Status: Completed April 2014
  • Awards: GIfA Award of Merit 2015 and SAIA Award of Merit 2016

The Last Glass House, Parktown, Johannesburg.

"The last Glass House" is situated on the rocky outcrop of the Westcliff Ridge, with a view to the west, through existing electricity pylons, over a valley, with Auckland Park and Melville in the background.

The brief was simple: A dwelling for an artist: a Bedroom Suite with an en-suite Bathroom, Kitchen, Dining area, Lounge area, Study area, and a Guest Room facility. Ancillary facilities include a swimming pool, Staff Quarters, and Storage. The design is inspired by the rich history of Johannesburg - the goldmines and its industry, the essential functionality of the industrial buildings in central Johannesburg. A key characteristic is the use of mass-manufactured steel fenestration. Another element of inspiration was the galvanised steel electricity pylons located a few metres away from the site in a municipal servitude.

The site falls approximately 6 metres from East to West. The project was conceptualised as a series of interrelated spaces, defined by elements such as retaining walls, the horizontal planes of the terraces, and glass walls. Significant spaces contain major landscape elements, such as a massive century old oak tree, the pool, a landscaped mass of natural grass, and a landscaped earth berm. These create a series of spaces or outdoor rooms integral to the landscape with various degrees of privacy. The top terrace becomes a threshold space, with pedestrian and vehicle entrance and parking. The main structure is situated on the intermediate terrace, a semi-private external space that contains the swimming pool and entertainment area. The bottom terrace to the West is the most private - the double volume Bedroom Suite opens onto the garden under a large oak tree.

The residential structure is 5m wide and 42m long, consisting of a single open plan space, that contains most of the required functional areas. Hierarchies of privacy are obtained through vertical separation, by the use of a split-level configuration. To the North and South of the main structure, the Guest Room facilities and Staff Quarters are accommodated in re-purposed industrial shipping containers.