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A private syndicate selected a hillside area in a wood of Tamboti trees to build a bush retreat with spectacular views through the trees onto an existing waterhole as well as on surrounding plains and hills.

The brief was clear: A contemporary design with minimum infringement on the topography and the architecture should complement rather than compete with nature.


The building work had to be completed in the shortest possible time without compromising on quality. The architects proposed a number of separate structures more or less on the same contour spread out to ensure that the minimum number of trees had to be removed. The key structural walls were built with either the abundance of natural stone from the area or plastered brickwork. The wooden infill structures with Meranti flooring, drywall, Masaranduba decking and sleeper walkways were hidden between the trees and appear to touch lightly on the contours in the landscape.


Large stack-away or sliding glass panels created the effect of treehouses opening up to nature. The project was completed in ten months on a difficult and ecological sensitive site, far from the suppliers of building materials. • Following the natural contour lines had the following effects: Even though the site is on a relatively steep incline, the walkway from the parking area through the communal living areas up to the bedrooms is on one level with no steps except down to the pool deck. • All the spaces are northeast facing, resulting in the hot summer sun disappearing early behind the adjacent hill to the southwest in mid-afternoon as well as spectacular moon- and sunrises over the mountains to the east. The abundance of trees acts as natural sun control in the mornings, supplemented by external wooden pole sunscreens suspended from the roof structure.


The main building comprises a carport, lounge, dining room, kitchen facility opening onto a deck area with built-in seating overlooking the watering hole. The adjacent open entertainment area with a pool deck and braai area form a link between the living area and the three structures accommodating six en suite bedrooms. All the rainwater from the roofs and paving areas are channelled to the watering hole to improve sustainability, as it usually dries out in winter. Water from the showers, bath and hand wash basins pass through filters into a galvanized steel tank on the kitchen roof from where it can be gravity fed to the watering hole or the irrigation system. The brief for the landscaping was that, with the abundance of trees and natural rock, no formal garden was to be created and only two different ‘veld’ grass species were being established.