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Lake House
Midlands, KwaZulu-Natal

KOOP DESIGN: Architect

2017SAIA KZN Award for Architecture
2018SAIA Award of Merit
2018SAIA Award for Excellence

Award for Excellence Citation

Buildings like Lake House can only be made through total dedication. The entire team involved in the design and construction needs to share the desire for excellence in every aspect of the building. This kind of attention to detail needs to extend across the whole building, from the large scale to the tiniest detail. Above all, it also requires a highly talented and experienced team to achieve a building such as this — to make it appear effortless, unselfconscious and generous. Buildings like Lake House will continue to live in the imagination of many, and will set a benchmark of inspiration for future generations.

This building is set in the idyllic and undulating hills of the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal, next to a small lake. The placing of this house next to the small lake takes advantage of every positive aspect that the site offered. The land on the slope towards the lake was shaped to create a platform for the building. In this way, the building was cut into the landscape in order for it to be placed unobtrusively right on the edge of the water.

The plan and section of the building are generous and deceptively simple and direct. It has the kind of simplicity that can only be achieved by a distillation process of many iterations to let go of any unnecessary elements. The generosity of the plan is in the spirit of the best tradition of farmhouses in South Africa. It has the profound logic where nothing needs to added or subtracted.

The relationship between the building and the water's edge was the main driving force of the design. Nothing was allowed to interfere with the purity of this relationship. In plan and elevation, the building has a relatively solid back towards the slope into which it has been cut, while the front of the building is mostly transparent to maximise this relationship with the lake. The section of the building provides it with a low and subtle profile. It is as if the bulk of the built form is intentionally made to hide it in the landscape.

The essence and spirit of the building is in its construction. The five-year process was relatively slow and allowed for every step to be well-refined and considered before execution. What the eye can see and the hand can touch are mostly local materials purposively sourced via a network of sometimes unconventional suppliers. The prime structure of the building is made of steel. All the other materials used in the building were then co-ordinated into this core structure. The building appears 'fragile' at times, but never cold and distant. It creates a warm domestic environment sheltering its inhabitants in the larger scale landscape.

This building is a prime example of 'total design' wherein the most careful design attention was lavished on all scales of the building. This can be seen in small details such as hinges, the purpose-made furniture, and the innovative environmental control systems. The stonework and the African hardwoods used throughout lock this building firmly into its place in the world. It cannot be anywhere else — nor does it wish to be. Lake House is masterful in its relaxed simplicity; a simplicity that only the highly talented and dedicated can achieve.

Writings about this entry

South African Institute of Architects . 2018. Awards : South African Institute of Architects. Awards for Excellence, Awards of Merit, Regional Awards for Architecture 2017/2018. Cape Town: Picasso for SAIA. pg 16, 17 ill