River House

Location: Onrus, Western Cape
Status: Completed 2017

River House exterior
River House Interior
River House Interior
River House exterior
River House exterior
Riverhouse sketch
Riverhouse sketch
Riverhouse sketch

River House

This weekend getaway on the bank of the Onrus River lagoon is situated in a grove of protected White Milkwood trees, the largest of which are estimated to be over four hundred years old. The client requested a ‘minimalist box’ with simple, unfussy interiors, optimised space utilisation, and maximum views. The caterpillar-like structure weaves between the Milkwoods, camouflaged by a darkly clad outer skin. No trees were removed and special care was taken to protect the roots. A double storey pavilion was placed in a clearing on the North eastern side of the site, like a bird hide, facing the mountains and the river. The bedrooms are tucked away on the lower level surrounded by the trees. Floating timber balconies wrap around both levels to generate a seamless interface with the landscape. Internally, the house has a warm materiality, mimicking the colours of the reed river landscape.

Wall cladding with particleboard and stained oak joinery provide a warm contrast to the concrete ceilings and smooth cement floors. A raised timber boardwalk, shaded beneath the dense forest canopy, leads to the front door where a reflection pond mirrors the dappled light above. Upon entry, one is drawn in by the view through a glazed wall of the trees beyond. The architecture heightens the experience and awareness of nature by carefully unveiling the landscape through a sequence of differentiated spaces that terminate in large picture windows. This process of “hiding and revealing” culminates in magnificent views of the river and mountain once the staircase has been ascended. By sliding the large panelled picture windows into wall cavities, the boundary between interior and exterior dissolves and the viewer is immersed in nature.

Location: Onrus, Western Cape
Design Team: Bettina Woodward, Marine Leblond, Nikki Onderstall & Kurvin Virahsawmy
Photographs: Jeremy Woodward

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