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Parktown Ridge, Johannesburg, Gauteng


Date:c1903 : 2007-2010


Built circa 1903 this originally, single storey verandah house, was entered from The Valley Road through a postern gate. In the intervening 107 years, the house has been substantially altered - most dramatically in 1918 with the addition of a second storey, and subsequently in 2002 when subdivision of the property necessitated replacing the pedestrian entry with a new entrance court flanked by staff quarters and garages.

After living in the house for many years and on completion of the sub division of the property and its consequent construction, the clients were finally in a position to undertake substantial renovations to the house. These commenced in 2007 and were completed in 2010.


The present phase of alterations commenced and comprised extensive renovations to the first floor including all bedrooms, upstairs landing, bathrooms, balcony, a new attic bathroom, the simplifying of the accretion of plumbing and electrical services to the exterior, the introduction of an external first floor level moulded plaster string course to improve the exterior proportions.


Work continued with the remodeling of the North facade, enclosure of the remaining ground floor verandah, new fanlights to the dining room French doors, alterations to the guest suite including a glass conservatory, reconstruction and extension of the stone walled terrace with the addition of new garden stairs [inspired by Lutyens], a raised lawn terrace, pond, tree planter and an enclosable verandah with fireplace, adjacent to the kitchen.


Further work included the reconstruction and refurbishment of the kitchen and kitchen court, construction of a rain water storage system and woodshed, new moulded plaster copings to staff quarters, garages and stone street walls.


The final phase consisted of a new water garden connecting the swimming pool stairs with a new gymnasium pavilion, terracotta tiled copings to the street walls and the raising and remodeling of the stone entrance gate piers.


The architectural approach has been intuitively eclectic reflecting the different historic styles found in the house and its Parktown Ridge Heritage neighbourhood. Traditionally detailed plaster mouldings and textures, marble and terracotta tiling, joinery, roof trusses, fireplace and chimney, stained glass windows and stone walling, have been combined with contemporary elements such as sliding folding aluminium windows, frameless glass side lights, balustrading and sliding folding doors. Reclaimed site materials including kopje stone, slate slabs and sandstone steps were used along with brass taps, ironmongery and light fittings partly sourced from the clients' collection. Garden terraces, courts and waterfeatures were an integral part of the architectural design.

The Clients are well traveled and great collectors of art and antiques. They brought clarity and insight to their requirements and to the making of design choices in which they were active participants. Their courage and patience, their attention to detail and insistence on quality, contributed greatly to the end result in this long and arduous process.

The Contractor's integrity and tenacity combined with his highly skilled artisans - plasterers, tillers, site carpenters and stonemasons ensured the evident, unusually high quality of craftsmanship. Specialist sub contractors contributed to the process.

Although the full range of the work of the last three years has been too extensive to describe in detail the following merit description:


The alterations to the first floor verandah in which the cottage paned windows and brick balustrade walls were removed and replaced with sliding folding aluminium windows and glass balustrades, emphasized the offset of the first and ground floor piers. The construction of a new brick skin with battered piers effectively addressed this. The enclosure of the remaining ground floor verandah with doors similar to the existing living room French doors, balanced the facade.


An unfortunate result of the subdivision of the property was the proximity of the new neighbouring house and the consequent loss of privacy to both house and garden.

The raising of the east terrace and tree planter served to address this. The construction of a new enclosable verandah overlooking the terrace provided an opportunity for an informal living area adjacent to the kitchen. The client's brief required the inclusion of a stone fireplace and chimney, a timber trussed roof and stackable sliding-folding frameless glass doors.

Externally, battered columns repeat the theme of the north fagade; the double pitched corrugated iron roof repeats the existing kitchen roof. They are separated by a large box gutter. Sprocket eaves extend the roof on the north side to aid both privacy and sun protection. The terracotta tiled projecting ingle nook supports a free-standing diagonally set chimney, finished in a plaster moulding and chimney pot similarto the existing chimneys and reminiscent of The Valley Road.

Internally, widely spaced corbelled trusses constructed of reclaimed Oregon mining timber, are bolted together. Substantial joists framing the white, light-reflecting plastered ceiling span between trusses. The gabled ends are glazed with clouded glass for both light and privacy. An ingle nook containing a traditionally constructed working fireplace has been created by a lowered concrete slab ceiling and raised stone paved (from the original pantry) floor. With the jewel-like "dalle de verre" window it forms the focus at one end. Frameless sliding folding glass doors fold away into a recess, opening the verandah up completely to overlook the pond and garden outside. A pair of frameless glass French doors provides easy access at all times. Timber framed fanlights provide permanent ventilation above. Reclaimed sandstone garden steps were used as thresholds to the doors as the fireplace mantelpiece and the corbeled truss supports. The diagonal theme of the chimney is repeated in the terracotta floor tiling of the enclosed verandah, the brick edged diamonds of the lawn,(which serve to extend the apparent terrace width), and in the shallow steps to the main terrace.


The kitchen adjacent to the verandah was completely gutted, structurally altered and re configured. The roof was reshaped without visible trusses. The raised white plastered ceiling included a skylight to introduce extra light. Oregon was re used for newly configured fittings topped in white marble. Terracotta floor tiles, purpose-made blue and white Portuguese-style glazed tiles and the copper stove hood again echo the Arts and Crafts.


The client's brief on the western side of the property, was to create a water garden connecting the swimming pool elliptical stairs with a gymnasium pavilion at its northern end. The new building was to be contemporary while expressing their strong connections to Japan.

An oval pool set in pebble and brick patterned paving completes the stairs' geometry. The axial shift between the pool and the gymnasium is achieved through a stone ribbed and curved stream. This falls into a channel connecting a circular fountain set in the centre of a square terrace. A further channel falls into the informal graveled terrace at its entrance.

Oregon timber post and beam construction frames glazed windows, sliding doors and flush plastered brickwork. A heavy ridge beam projects through the glazed gable ends supporting corrugated iron roof sheeting cut at angles to increase the ridge length and shade the gable glazing. All timber junctions are rebated or notched and bolted. Japanese inspired entrance doors pivot on shaped timber blocks. A timber sprung floor is set into the centre of the tatami-mat-emulating Cemcrete floor. Timber off-shutter concrete slabs roof the kitchen servery at one end and form a loft over the bathroom at the other. The stone boundary wall forms the backdrop to both kitchen servery and terrace. Sliding timber-framed doors lead onto a timber boarded terrace set into terracotta tiling and edged with a tiled seat and timber balustrade. A circular section framing the Jacuzzi and a stone stair connecting with the garden below, complete the east end.

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.