Postmodern Minimalism in South Africa

Irene, Gauteng Province, South Africa | Built in 2005 | 7 bedrooms, 6 baths | 6,400-square-foot floor plan, .5 acre | Architect: Charl Groenewald


The indigenous grassy fields of South Africa’s Highveld Plateau surround a neo-Brutalist home designed by esteemed South African architect Charl Groenewald. Grid-like in its simplicity, the design presents dazzling window walls, towering ceilings and a color palette of soothing earth tones. Located in the village of Irene near shops, restaurants and tourist sites, it’s situated about halfway between Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Clean, simplistic lines of untreated concrete, steel and glass define this seven-bedroom dwelling. Bedrooms have their own private living rooms and are housed in a separate wing, which can be entirely closed off from the communal areas. As a tip of the hat to international pioneers of modern architecture, Groenewald playfully named the bedrooms after Tadao Ando, Olson Kundig, Tom Wright, Frank Gehry, Mies van der Rohe and I.M. Pei.

Comprising these flexible public spaces are wide open gathering and dining areas, an industrial kitchen and dual home offices. Finishes are basic and elemental: dry stacked dolomite walls, heated cement flooring splashed in epoxy paint and steel shuttered windows, which lend an urbanist vibe. The low slanted roof of sheet metal has an industrial basis, with sections which open to control the internal temperature.

Axis entrances and private courtyards, including a central courtyard anchored by a leafy Celtis africanus tree, absorb deep sun during winter and welcome shade in summer months. The tree is such an integral part of this property that the family dubbed their home Celtis House.

Groenewald carefully considered the home’s position on its half-acre lot. The double-height northern facade is entirely transparent, allowing for unobstructed panoramas and abundant natural light, while south facing rooms incorporate high-set windows for privacy from neighboring properties. The dramatic interiors of this progressive home make it an in-demand location for movie and magazine shoots, while on-site parking for 50 cars easily accommodates special events. A guesthouse offers flexibility for a company or rental income.

Space, light and views are the graceful touchstones of this architecturally-nuanced home.

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