This weekend house on the bank of the Onrus River lagoon is situated within a grove of protected White Milkwood trees, the largest of which are estimated to be over four hundred years old. The client requested a ‘minimalist box’ with simple, unfussy interiors where circulation and space utilisation are optimised, and views maximised.The house is conceived as a caterpillar-like structure that weaves its way between the Milkwoods, camouflaged by its darkly clad outer skin. No trees were removed to make way for the building and special care was taken to protect the roots. A double storey pavilion was placed in the clearing on the Northeastern side of the site, like a bird hide, facing the mountains and the river. The bedrooms were tucked away on the lower level surrounded by the trees. Floating timber balconies wrap around on both levels to generate a seamless interface with the landscape. Internally, the house has a warm materiality mimicking the colours of the reed river landscape.

Wall cladding with particleboard and joinery elements made out of stained oak provide a warm contrast to the off shutter concrete ceilings and smooth cement floors.A raised timber boardwalk, shaded beneath the dense forest canopy, leads to the front door where a reflection pond mirrors the dappled light above. Upon entry, one is drawn into the interior by a view through a glazed wall towards the trees beyond. The architecture aims to heighten the experience and awareness of nature by a careful unveiling of the landscape through a sequence of differentiated spaces that terminate in large picture windows. This process of “hiding and revealing” culminates in magnificent views of the river and mountain once the staircase has been ascended. The picture windows can be opened entirely by sliding the large doors into the wall cavities; this dissolves the boundaries between interior and exterior and immerses the viewer in nature.

Location: Onrus River, Western Cape
Type: Residential Holiday House
Size: 250 m2
Status: Completed 2017
Design Team: Bettina Woodward, Marine Leblond, Kurvin Virahsawmy.

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