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marrying sandstone cliff and riverine forest

house of the big arch occupies a unique place in a nature reserve situated in the waterberg mountains of south africa;
a landscape of remarkable plants, inspiring cliffs, and prodigious wildlife

the brief

a home that disappears into the landscape;
​that sits amongst the rocks and trees and birds; that offers animals and plants and humans equal opportunity to find shelter;
that treats the bushveld with its deserved respect

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the idea

the underlying concept was to bridge the landscape between riverine forest and sandstone cliff,
whilst raising the living space into the tree canopy, amongst the abundant arboreal life

the building is organised as one long, very thin building which slots between the forest trees.
the shapes of the additions to the central building are dictated by the position and size of the surrounding trees
​(not one tree was demolished during the construction of this home)

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the materials

The building makes use of a very simple set of materials which all play their part in making the building part of its landscape

​the most abundant material is a rough stock brick which was selected to match the site’s weathered sandstone
the ‘bridge’ portions of the building are constructed from sustainably-grown timbers,
whilst glass and aluminium fill in the non-structural walls

​the roof is predominantly a living roof planted with endemic grasses, succulents and shrubs

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the programme

the first floor offers to its inhabitants a planted courtyard, a reclusive lounge, a sunlit dining room, a farmhouse kitchen and scullery, a tree-shaded deck, a small pool and a fireplace - around which most of the cooking and living occurs

​the ground floor provides yet more courtyards, a study, library and a small swing bench under the arch

the cellar creates a climate conducive to curing meats, storing food supplies and ageing wines

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closing thought

we cannot ever divide architecture, landscape and gardening; they are one