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Clay Brick Enhances Off The Grid Waterberg Retreat

If you’re anything like us and love fascinating architecture that respects the land it is built on, you’ll love this striking home built in the Bushveld. Here the beauty of Clay Brick only enhances the delicate balance that architecture poses against the natural surroundings.

Architecture collective Frankie Pappas has hidden this 3.3-metres-wide House of the Big Arch within the Bushveld nature reserve in the north of South Africa.

As the house was located an hour-and-a-half drive to the nearest town, the architecture collective decided to make it an off-grid home – not connected to water or electricity networks. Clay brick is the ideal choice as it’s dense mass provides natural insulation from temperature extremes.

The unusual form of the skinny house is a direct result of its unique location. Here, within a nature reserve, the house is surrounded by forest and alongside sandstone cliffs. Frankie Pappas designed the home so that it would be enveloped by the surrounding forest. Today it sits beautifully within the canopies of the existing trees.

A home to suit the land

The house’s long, thin shape was determined by the location. Not even one tree had to be felled during its construction. A major feat!

In an interview, Frankie Pappas explains, “This house is designed for a very specific portion of a very specific valley of a very specific nature reserve in a very specific portion of South Africa”.

“The building is shaped by its surrounds. It could exist nowhere else in the world. It is a direct expression of its site.”

Simplicity and sustainability

Furthermore, the building utilises a very simple set of materials. The bathroom and chimneys are therefore constructed from a rough stock brick. This was selected to match the site’s weathered sandstone. The bedroom is built from sustainably-grown timbers. Glass and aluminium subsequently fill the gaps between the timber structure.

Take a look inside…

The house’s upper floor includes a planted courtyard, a lounge, a dining room, and a farmhouse kitchen and scullery. The ground floor provides additional courtyards as well as a study, a library, and a small swing bench. finally, on the lower level, the cellar offers a climate conducive to curing meats, storing food supplies, and aging wines

The bridge portions of the house are constructed from timber and span between the monolithic brick structures. A lounge area is subsequently contained with the first brick support and a dining area on the first bridge connecting to a kitchen in the second brick element.

Furthermore, the second timber bridge leads to an outdoor patio. Here we find an oven and also a small pool supported on a brick arch, from which the house takes its name. A swing hangs beneath the arch. A fireplace at the end of the building is also the culmination of the house’s spatial sequence – and sits about four metres above the forest floor.

Clay Brick adds an organic, natural and serene look to this home. It’s a hidden retreat in a equally tranquil setting.

For more visit The Clay Brick Association and find out about the amazing work being done locally in the built environment.

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