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House Abramson
Newlands, Cape Town, Western Cape

Sam ABRAMSON: Architect

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The site, sloping gently, in Newlands, is 39 metres long and 21 metres wide, and was chosen generally for its ready-made shrub garden and particularly for the magnificent flowering Magnolia tree near its north-western corner. Along the street boundary to the south-east are some magnificent Oaks. These, with the existing hedge and site shrubbery, give this house considerable privacy. The house with its outbuildings was grouped around the Magnolia, forming a private entrance court and leaving the maximum area of existing garden undisturbed for outdoor recreation. A second paved but smaller court contains a "Braaivleis" and cantilevered bench, and affords complete privacy and protection for outdoor summer eating. This court is "summer room" having all the advantages of enclosure against the wind yet losing none of the essentially Cape outdoor quality.

In order to retain privacy from the adjoining dwellings on either side of the site, and particularly in order to afford the penetration of the very maxiĀ¬mum of morning sun, high level windows are provided along the entire north-east walls of the living room and main bedroom. In the case of the living room this window stretches over the kitchen roof, and for the main bedroom over the lower bathroom units. These three units have the ceiling pitched to the line of the roof, with the living room ceiling showing the pattern of exposed timber rafters. The main bedroom and bathroom ceiling conceals the rafters. All these sloping ceilings contain heat insulating materials as there is no vast air space to perform that function.

At the end of the living room where the sloping roof reaches its maximum height of some 5,5 metres, an open gallery was suspended between the room's side walls. A light timber stairway leads up to this level from the living room. The door leading to the kitchen is directly under this stair landing. The soffit of this gallery, together with that of the entrance lobby, is at door height level and creates a low intimate dining space under it. Furthermore, this low ceiling level on entrance acts as a foil and dramatizes most effectively the comparative height and volume of the living zone. The gallery is shielded by a light metal balustrade, and contains a large sliding door giving it visual contact with the flowering shrubs outside. The gallery is used as a hobby and reading/writing space by both husband and wife, and is treated as an integral and not isolated part of the living room, which in turn gains access to the garden by means of a wide sliding door. Between this door and the adjacent window is situated the fireplace, affording a pleasant view of the winter garden while sitting around the fire. The fireplace unit heats this large volume most effectively on cold, overcast days. Due to the very fortunate position of the existing trees no obstruction of the winter sun occurs and the house is pleasantly warm oil the cold but bright winter days.

The bedrooms are compact and all contain built-in wardrobes in Sapele or Oak. The kitchen cupboards are similarly finished, as is the built-in dressing table in the bathroom.

Externally, cavity walls are in unplastered brick painted pure white. The chimney is smooth plastered and also white. The brick plinth is painted black, with all timber fascias, under window panels, garden gate and garage door in natural stained hardwood. Plastic gutters and downpipes are painted mid grey. The outside face of the entrance door is citron; the glass panel adjacent transparent blue and green.

Internally the walls to the living area are unplastered brick with faintly "struck" joints. The bedrooms are smooth plastered and the bathroom accommodation tiled to full height; all sanitary ware and tiling being white.

(Extracted and edited from Wale 1962:103-106)

Writings about this entry

Wale, Laurie (Editor). 1962. New home building ideas : Architects' plans for southern Africa. Cape Town: Purnell & Sons. pg 103-108