On a 900 square metre plot of vacant land in a tranquil residential estate within the fast-paced suburb of Fourways in Johannesburg, Sergio Chinelli Architects have created a linear, 510 square metre double-storey, contemporary South African family home. Africanism put some questions to Sergio Chinelli:
Can you give us a short background on yourself and your practice?
I am a 38-year-old South African born architect raised by Italian parents. My father was a master builder who influenced me to become an architect. I was exposed to the building industry at a very early age and often visited my dad’s construction sites. I qualified as a professional architect from WITS University in 2003, and in 2004 I started my own practice and have been growing from strength to strength to become a specialist in bespoke residential architecture.
What was the brief for this particular project?
The brief was to cater for a young family’s growing needs, which included an open plan kitchen, dining, lounge opening out onto a vast covered entertainment area comprising of an outside 12 seater dining table and expansive outside lounge area. The entrance opens onto a “New York” styled entrance lobby framing a courtyard behind, while a TV room is located just off the lobby area. Upstairs the house comprises of three bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, a PJ lounge and a home studio with a mezzanine level above. All rooms open out onto Juliet balcony’s to enjoy the shallow mountain/L-shaped garden views.
Were there any issues on site?
Challenges included the steep fall of the land where we had to do extensive cutting and filling to accommodate a working level. The house was a challenge to build due to its unconventional design; it was also a structural feat of engineering with expansive spans, cantilever’s etc.
What would you say is the most noticeable feature of the home?
I would say its beautiful open plan kitchen, dining and lounge area which opens entirely to the outside. When the huge multi-track sliding doors are open you really feel like you are living outside. It really integrates the house with the landscaped garden. Also the space is always flooded by light, especially because we made use of a 14m long skylight strip running through the space. This ensures that even on a rainy day, the space is always bright and airy.
How did the environment influence your design?
The design tried to maximise the corner position of the site and the views.
How would you describe the style of the project?
I don’t believe in labelling an architecture based on style as this creates stereotypes that I prefer not to associate with. Instead I would say the house was designed along modern architectural principles, inspired and always relating directly to its South African context. A house fit for purpose in South Africa.
What was the inspiration for the design?
One of the main concepts of the house was to float the bedrooms on the 1st floor, above the vast covered terrace, instead of positioning them over the open plan kitchen, dining, lounge area. This eliminated the unusable open space which would have resulted above the covered terrace. This also gave us free reign to explore interesting spatial arrangements by way of mono pitched roofs in the open plan area, defining it as a unique and beautiful space. Another important concept was to use the long L-shaped corner pavement area to plant a forest of trees that would eventually screen the house off from all of its neighbours, essentially creating a private residence within a dense urban forest.
What sustainable initiatives were implemented in the design?
The use of deep concrete overhangs to control temperatures in the house; gas powered hot water supply; a borehole to supply the garden with water; and large opening doors and windows to facilitate cross ventilation amongst others
What challenges were encountered during the project?
The unconventional nature of the design meant it required an unconventional approach to building it.
Looking back at the completed project, what are your thoughts?
I think it succeeded in achieving what it needed to achieve. I think it is incredibly well grounded within in environment. It is a house that will improve over time as it ages, settles into its environment and builds up memories through its inhabitants. Its relationship with the outdoors will only strengthen as the landscaped urban forest grows into full force.
LOCATION: Helderfonten Estate, Fourways, South Africa
ACHITECTS: Sergio Chinelli Architects
INTERIOR DESIGNERS: Sergio Chinelli Architects and Daniella Interiors
PHOTOGRAPHY: Ben Bergh/Sergio Chinelli