When the existing house was demolished to construct a new house, only Nico van der Meulen Architects could imagine the magnificence of the house that would have risen from the remains! The Glass House, situated in Johannesburg on a 4000 sq.m site and with a total floor area of 2500sq.m. is once again an example of brilliance of this group of South African Architects. The owner requested a modern, glamorous, open plan, light-filled house with views from all rooms into the garden, and Nico van der Meulen Architects promptly responded presenting a plan that features the profile of a half circle on the South side and a horseshow shape on the North side.
From the entrance it is already possible to enjoy glimpses of the garden and of the water feature through the house, thanks to an elevated driveway that elongates from the gate to the residence. Both the porte cochere and the staircase are suspended structures of glass and stainless steel, this latter almost floating over a heated pond which acts as a temperature stabilizer in summer, and as an enormous heater during winter. In the background, a circular raised glass water feature is framed by a two storey’s high beam.
On the sides, a small sunken formal lounge is found to the right and a timber-clad lift tower to the left. The dining room, with its 6m high curved glass enclosure, is raised a couple of steps above the family room. Each sheet of glass of the dining room windows leans over further than the previous sheet: a composition held in place once again with glass fins. The walls to the family room and bar are clad with marble strips, glass inlays and LED strip lights. 70m of frameless glass folding doors were put in place to run from the dining room and around the family room, lanai, indoor pool and gym. The family room is partially double volume, flowing seamlessly into the lanai and heated indoor pool, with a bar, pizza oven, gas and wood braai.
A pair of automatic, frameless sandblasted doors lead from the dining room to the kitchen. The breakfast area and the playroom are adjacent to the kitchen and family room, which allows younger kids to be supervised from these two rooms, and consents direct access to the bar and barbeque area from the kitchen. A feature wall opposite the living areas is clad in stone from Jerusalem, with a tree aloe growing in front of it. The stone comes from buildings hundreds of years old that were demolished in Israel to make space for development. The same stone is used in the dining room, flowing through the glass wall to the outside. The house is ventilated and kept cool naturally and without compromising the security thanks to the atrium in between the family room and the kitchen.
In case of an emergency, a roller shutter door will automatically drop when the alarm is activated, cutting the top floor off from the ground floor. From the study, which is a glass box at the top of the staircase, one can look over the pools at the bottom. Likewise, the lanai opens up totally to the outdoor pool with a deck, spilling into a kids’ splash pool at the bottom. And if this is not enough, you can jump from the main bedroom into the pool, swim to the gym, swim back and use the steel spiral staircase to go back to the main bedroom… or tip a tipsy friend into the pool from his barstool!
A large playroom is situated next to the study, with an intimate home theater and kitchenette, leading to a large balcony with a shaded porch. On the other side of the hall, the main bedroom can be reached via a gallery looking down into the dining room and out to the garden. The main suite has a small lounge and built-in kitchenette, with a drop-down screen and projector built into the bulkhead. A large balcony off the main bedroom is partially covered, granting relief from the summer sun and allowing all fresco early morning coffee or late afternoon drinks. A staircase to the roof allows views over the surrounding suburb and towards Midrand. The main bathroom is a study in glass and transparency: the North and East glass walls can slide open, and if privacy is required one can simply lower the automatic blinds without losing the views and ventilation, as the doors look translucent from outside.
The double volume glass enclosure over the pool can be opened from the balcony outside the children’s bedrooms, allowing a cooling updraft over the pool. From another balcony the door overlooking the double volume in the family room can be opened, again resulting in a cooling chimney effect to the living areas. A basement under the house can accommodate about 12 cars. A view into the pool is guaranteed from the parking as well, together with a top-lit art gallery which forms the passage between the garages and the lift. Naturally, M Square Lifestyle Design took care of the interiors; with Phia van der Meulen leading the group to complete this refined and acclaimed product. Thanks to the collaboration of the two teams, the Glass House is one of the most admired works of the architectural and interior realms, both nationally and internationally.Location: Johannesburg, South Africa Architect: Nico van der Meulen Architects