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Imposing Modern Residence in South Africa: House Serengeti

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Nico Van Der Meulen Architects completed an imposing residence in Johannesburg, South Africa, entitled House Serengeti. The residence impresses due to an unusual mix of earthly textures and raw materials with high-gloss finishes and refined design elements. According to the architects, the brief “was to create a stylish family home with ecologically sound design that maximized indoor-outdoor living to take full advantage of Johannesburg’s legendary eight-month summer. It’s a double-storey home with an open-plan living area downstairs, an upstairs pajama lounge, a study, and four bedrooms, all of them en-suite. The three family bedrooms are upstairs, and we positioned the guest room downstairs, separating it from the family’s sleeping area to maximize privacy”. Visual treats can be observed throughout the interiors of this residence, from the sculptures created by van der Meulen’s brother, Regardt, to the bold pendant lights above the dining room.

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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

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