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Aloe Ridge House
Grant Pitcher

Aloe Ridge House

Metropole Architects as Architects

Under the leafy canopy of an immense Albizia Tree nestles Aloe Ridge House, a 300sqm contemporary home in the Eden Rock Estate on Kwa Zulu Natal's South Coast of South Africa.

A veritable 'Mesian box' of bold contemporary architectural design set into the African indigenous coastal forest context, Aloe Ridge House makes a big architectural statement despite its relatively diminutive dimensions, promoting the notion that a dream house needn't be sprawling and palatial but that in fact, small can be beautiful.

The house stands proud on its corner site and is a progressive cantilever form that proclaims its presence and is representative of a paradigm shift in the estate's architectural design language.

The planar estate road (public) facade is intentionally bold, minimalist and austere and hard up against the south western site building line. The result is a visually engaging architecture that makes efficient use of the small site, provides effective privacy to the inhabitants whilst at the same time acting as an efficient barrier to bad weather and prevailing strong winds coming from the south west. In addition a narrow linear plan form, maximizes openness and sheltered private space for living, entertainment and relaxation behind this to the North East, in close proximity to the wild natural bush and looking out towards the view beyond.

The entrance to the house is a carefully considered grand, double volume arrangement of components in glass, timber and concrete and with 'wrap around' form making, a signature characteristic of recent Metropole homes.

There is a sense of 'big-ness' and 'wow factor' right from the start.

The strong horizontal line created by the roof of the garage structure provides visual axial thrust to the point of entry, into a transparent double volume entrance area and through to the kitchen and living spaces beyond.

Internally, at ground floor level, open plan design with a minimum of dividing walls, no internal doors and level thresholds between inside and outside facilitate a user experience of a single large multi-use space that unconstricted, uncluttered and weather permitting, is able to open up and connect and extend to the outdoors.

High level perimeter strip windows visually lighten the experience of the first floor building mass overhead and enhance the experience of the vertical dimension of the living, dining and entertainment areas at ground floor level.

A generous external decked area with plunge pool and open lawn area beyond encourages the inhabitants to indulge in and celebrate an outdoor lifestyle of entertainment, play and relaxation.

At first floor level, once again the design focus was to promote a sense of openness with privacy and create a diverse, joyful place in a limited space. Whilst the need for privacy has dictated the use of doors, these doorways are full height at 2.6m and when open allow continuity of space to be experienced through an uninterrupted ceiling plane.

The 3 bedrooms located at this level open out to an elevated balcony which allows distant views over the tree tops to the sea in the east and distant hills and the setting sun to the west. A series of movable Balau timber screens bring in filtered daylight to the clean, modernist interiors, without sacrificing privacy whilst adding a degree of detail and natural colours and texture to the modern façade.

In Aloe Ridge House there is a unity of opposites.

The clean, hard and straight lines of the man-made intervention meet the soft flowing irregular line and textures of the natural bush context in a respectful harmony.

The architecture brings the great big South African outdoors in and in turn encourages the inhabitants to venture out into it. Extensive cantilevers resonant of the canopy of the Albizia tree provide a sense of lightness and floating of the upper building mass on the open plan lower level.

The extensive use of glass breaks down the traditional visual barriers between inside and out as well as providing reflections of the natural vegetation that is its context.

The palette of natural materials including earthy colour tones, timber screens, decking stone cladding juxtapose with the bold and progressive architectural form making, creating a small home that ‘packs a big punch’ and that is not only visually and spatially exciting, but also comfortable and intimate.

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