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House Whitfield
Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), Eastern Cape


2017SAIA EC Award for Architecture
2018SAIA Commendation

Commendation Citation

The view, the indigenous plant growth and the topography of this secluded site are the primary reasons for wanting to live on this specific spot on earth.

Port Elizabeth is known for its dramatic ravines a relatively well-known feature of the landscape that this city occupies. These ravines are the spatial opposite of the beach area. The beaches are by their very nature spatially open and connected to the larger landscape. Here there is an unlimited horizon and it is on the beaches where the population of the city gathers en masse to enjoy the outdoors. In contrast, the ravines in the city are carved out of the landscape due to water erosion over millennia. These areas have a relatively limited view across or alongside the winding nature of the watercourse.

As spaces, they are 'secretive' and dramatic, which makes them desirous places to live.

The house is situated on the southern slopes of the Baakens River ravine, while the view is to the north. The site is heavily wooded with indigenous trees and shrubs. This site condition complicated matters for the architects. To capitalise on the views, the building had to be raised above the steep slope. The clients also did not want a large house, but their budget was relatively limited.

To achieve the desired outcome, the architects designed a galvanised iron steel frame to lift the house above the ground plane and onto the level where the view could be obtained. One bedroom is on the ground level, while the rest are on the higher level.

The form of the house, with its exposed structural frame, is quite dynamic and sculptural. It also has a double roof system that assists with the cooling in summer. The walls were constructed with 100mm thick lightweight concrete that allows for the required sound and thermal insulation.

In many ways the house is reminiscent of a cocoon up in the air - protecting its inhabitants while affording them a tremendous view from the secluded and nearly secretive site.

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 76, 77 ill