House in Blair Atholl by Nico van der Meulen Architects is a luxury farmhouse located between Pretoria and Johannesburg, South Africa, in a secluded golf estate. Free from high boundary walls and electric fencing, the expansiveness of this double-story home with unrestricted views of the countryside makes a powerful impression. The brief called for a contemporary, practical home that makes provision for outdoor living with an emphasis on entertaining. Due to the form-follow-function approach of the design, this modern family home is spacious and uncluttered from unnecessary decorative elements.
The design concept is undoubtedly a strong one and whilst Werner van der Meulen was restricted by the estate rules which included making use of pitched roofs and specific natural materials, it was in fact these very parameters which led to the concept of a contemporary farmhouse. Once inside you appreciate to how effortlessly the open plan spaces flow into each other with the living room, dining room, kitchen and lanai all in close proximity to each other. The frameless folding doors create an invisible threshold between the inside and the outside and when completely open, the lanai becomes an extension of the kitchen and family/dining and viceversa.
The two en-suite children’s bedrooms are positioned on the western wing with their own private balconies. M Square Lifestyle Design ensured that a mood of warmth and comfort filtered through into the interior spaces, and that the finishes remained true to the architecture of the home, thus emphasizing the modern clean lines and natural materials used throughout this house. [Information provided via e-mail by Nico van der Meulen Architects; Photography by David Ross and Barend Roberts]
Energy during the construction process was saved by using FSC-certified glulam timber instead of steel to create the building’s distinctive wavy roof, while the store’s external walls use hemclad, a highly innovative insulator made from hemp, which, like all plants, absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere as it grows. An 80,000 litre water tank below ground provides water for the store’s toilets and waters the site’s green wall’, which provides natural insulation, acts as an all-natural pollution filter near the car park, and helps to encourage biodiversity. The result is a building that uses a fraction of the energy of structures of a similar size, and is still very popular with local shoppers.
What is new and exciting now can quickly begin to look tired and out of fashion, so the best buildings don’t just consider what will be interesting to look at now, but also how it might look to people in five, fifty or even a hundred years’ time. 2013’s hotly contested RIBA Stirling Prize went to Witherford Watson Mann Architects for their work on Astley Castle, Warwickshire. In what RIBA Past President Stephen Hodder has described as an extreme retrofit, the project essentially saw a new building inserted subtly into the heart of the old, with a new, two storey residence now hidden within the sandstone walls of the ruins of this medieval castle, to be used as a holiday home for up to eight guests