Two-story Home With Hovering Roof, Gym, and Seamless Nature Connection

The project brief called for the addition of a gymnasium pavilion to the existing context of a large family estate in Constantia.

The architects have been involved in the master planning and various buildings on the estate, and the aim was to reduce the impact of a new structure on the well-established gardens, informing the decision to construct the gym pavilion onto the existing concrete slab roof of an older guest cottage and storage area.

Architect: Malan Vorster Architecture Interior Design

Area: 180 m²

Year: 2020

Photo: Adam Letch

The chosen position within the estate presented exciting prospects: surrounding mature trees offered shelter and sitting perched on the edge of an existing retaining wall provided a sense of dynamic balance. The site, being between the main upper lawn of the garden and the parking werf below it, would allow the building to engage with a wide range of different view aspects as well as connect to the different terraced levels surrounding it. The position also meant the gymnasium could be linked to the guest suite below it by means of an internal staircase. The guest suite received an update with a new open-plan layout, finishes and furnishings.

The gymnasium space is housed under a pavilion-like and hovering roof. The roof is expressed as a folded and floating copper canopy, with two opposite corners lifted upwards to afford views into the adjacent oak trees. The roof is seemingly levitating on frameless glazing, achieved by shaping the steel roof supports to minimal blade-thin slivers.

Steel and timber construction methods were employed to minimize the impact of concrete and other wet works, as most of the components could be manufactured off-site, reducing the environmental impact of the construction process. The tree house has served as the inspiration for the selection of materials, construction methodology and detailing.

The gym’s interior material selection is a continuation of the building’s materiality, with cedar ceilings, rough sawn timber floors and touches of hand turned brass elements. The same materials are carried through to the renovation of the existing guest unit below, which can be accessed from the gym by means of a cedar clad stairwell lit from above with a round skylight looking up into the tree branches.

The guest unit consists of a living/dining room with a kitchenette, linked to a bedroom suite with privacy pocket doors on both sides of a floating central tv-unit and headboard wall. The kitchen and all other cabinetwork were custom designed by the architects.

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