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House Maré
Westcliff, Johannesburg, Gauteng

Wilhelm Bernhard PABST: Architect

Date:1948-1955
Type:Homestead
Status:Extant

The house is built in stone quarried on the site and took 7 years to complete. It has not (2014) undergone renovation which has changed it in any way externally. Minor interior renovation. The stone mason was an Italian who was a prisoner-of war in Pretoria during the second world war, named Cantamessa. It has beautiful stonework including a magnificent chimney.

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The site of the house has an extended linear form with the narrow west edge fronting onto Westcliff Ave. The steep approach drive is formed of hammer dressed koppie stone flanked on both sides with a concrete pavement – possibly replacing broad planted margins.

The dramatic triangular pointed prow of the Lounge cantilevers over the parking court and garage entrance. The large glazed window panels on either side of the 'prow' were placed flush with the external plaster – this either being Pabst's reference to Arts & Crafts detailing or applied as a modernist detail. The underside of the eaves was carefully detailed with symmetrical cover strips.

The hammer dressed random rubble wall extends seamlessly into and around the inside faces of the walls of the double garage. The mechanised garage doors are a later addition and detract slightly from the original design intention. The floor of the garage is currently clad with an assembly of pressed cement tiles – but it is likely that this is a later finish – possibly covering koppie stone paving.

The stonework to the external walls is all traditionally laid, hammer dressed stonework in an Orange Grove quartzite quarried on the site faced internally with plastered brickwork. As a result of this traditional construction approach, the stone walls have a substantial thickness – this is not the applied 'veneer' of stonework that is often the norm today. The external walls are finished in a random rubble bond with the building corners carefully quoined in a coursed bond.

The stone lintels are noteworthy. The narrower openings over the windows and doors have a splayed impost block on either side supporting a central keystone or a few radiating voussoirs. Those openings with larger spans (e.g. over the kitchen window) are formed with the same impost blocks but with several radiating voussoirs probably set in place with a reinforced concrete beam cast in situ behind. The lintels to the garages and the verandah each have a curved impost block.

An interesting detail is the flying buttress - also constructed in hammer dressed stone - on the south side which serves to support the overhanging roof providing protection to the stairs leading up to the entrance door.

The chimney is finely composed with a rectangular shaft tapering at the upper end with a central square opening on the north face, the whole shaft capped with a stone slab. The chimney serves two fireplaces – one on the outside for braaing and another in the Lounge.

Internally the range of different parquet floors is noteworthy as is the fine internal volume of the Lounge.

The roof was originally clad in black slate but has been covered with a modern Harvey tile. Certain modifications to the roof profile were carried out at the same time to resolve areas of the roof that were leaking.

A horizontal plate glass roof light on the First Floor balcony allows natural light into the entrance hall below. The main bedroom has a small oriel balcony with curved wrought iron balustrade accessed by a pair of glazed doors.

A long linear outbuilding is situated at the south eastern side of the property at the highest point of the site and was constructed with matching hammer dressed stone finishes.

(William MARTINSON March 2014)

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.