Print Friendly and PDF

South African architecture is going green

From Camps Bay to the centre of Sandton, South African architecture is placing its foundations firmly as a leader in contemporary design and cutting edge interiors. Not only that, South African architects are embracing green building using various sustainable and eco-friendly construction alternatives.


The three-level penthouse in Sandhust Towers is just one example of this.

With a brief to design a home that reflects urban living and incorporate 'smart home' technology, architects SAOTA and OKHA designer Adam Court raise the bar to show how open floor plan living, incorporating the indoors and outdoors, can be achieved in the commercial centre of Sandton.

Expansive views of the city centre and surrounding areas are seen from every aspect of the penthouse, creating the illusion of a calm, floating space above the hustle and bustle in the streets below.

The 900 square metre apartment offers open plan living that endlessly flows throughout the space. With an overall colour scheme of black and white, art, furniture and natural elements add additional colour and texture.

Contemporary design and the use of modern, eco-friendly materials combine to create an elegant urban living home.


The Cottonfields complex comprises four single-family houses located on a subdivision in the leafy suburb of Atholl. Each house has been individually designed by GLH Architects to take advantage of the particular strengths of its situation on the site, and although each has its own personality, they are linked by a common theme and architectural language.

The concept throughout the houses is the linking of a thread of different open volumes, geometries, and textures along an axial vista, the punctuation of which is a landscaped view. Each room has been planned to make the most of the internal-external relationships, giving access and views onto a range of garden spaces. The changing play of light and shadow moving through the volumes illustrates the changing spirit of the house from day to night.

Spaces manage at once to be generous and intimate, and the balance between public and private areas has been carefully articulated. The overriding principles of the stylistic language are the creation of a timeless effortless elegance, contrasting modern and traditional materials, textures, and technologies. Timber, stone, marble, high tech kitchens, and remote controlled lighting create a sense of luxury and well-being in what is foremost a comfortable family home environment.


Designed by Nico van der Meulen Architects, the Glass House in Senderwood sits on a 4000 square metre site and has a total floor area of 2500 square metres. Appropriately named, with more than 70% of the house being glass, the home is an open plan, light-filled house with expansive views from all rooms into the garden. Frameless glass sliding doors stretch around the home from the dining room to the gym and can be opened onto the heated indoor pool area, with bar area.

To the right is a small sunken formal lounge, and to the left a timber-clad lift tower. The dining room is raised a couple of steps above the family room. The window to the dining room is a 6m high curved glass enclosure, where each sheet of glass leans over further than the previous sheet, with glass fins holding it in position.

More and more people the world over are acting on the awareness that the planet’s resources need to be preserved and protected more so than ever before, a philosophy which has spilled over into the property arena.

Recently South Africa started to focus on incorporating green technology into residential buildings and awareness around the benefits of green building has increased - especially in light of the rising electricity costs among others.

The Green Building Council of South Africa is currently piloting a rating tool for multi-unit residential buildings to give them an official "green" certification both for the design and then again after completion.

This new residential dwelling is situated in Swellendam at the door-step of the breathtaking mountains and valleys of Langeberg Mountains – a view so magnificent that the locals have named it God’s Window.' It was because of this exquisite setting that simple forms and materials were chosen for the architecture, in order to facilitate a subtle intervention - to "lie gently" on the landscape.

The buildings were constructed using largely local textures and materials reminiscent of its distinctly Southern African origins. In addition to the architecture itself, efforts were made to make the house and the land itself more sustainable. For example, the land was cleared of non-native invading species, like the black wattle. Also, all the water used in the house is harvested from the site itself, and as a result there is no connection to the municipal water supply line, making the house self-sustaining from a water perspective.

Designed by Gass Architecture - the buildings that comprise the house, while simple in form and texture, are intentionally oriented on the site to engage the surroundings. The house is composed of three discrete box structures forming three edges of a private courtyard. The largest box form contains the public areas - the entertainment, living, and kitchen spaces. This box, with its glass façade and uplifted roof, opens itself up completely to its surrounding. In contrast, the smaller boxes, flanking to form either side of the courtyard, include the private domains of the bedroom and bathrooms, and on one side, a movie room.

 These buildings are made of thick masonry walls and concrete roofs, which form cave-like, intimate spaces where one can retreat for solitary quietude. The purposeful orientation of these three buildings as perimeters to a courtyard creates a spatial relationship with the mountains, which, in essence, form the last perimeter of the courtyard. Moreover, the structural and material qualities of these buildings, accentuated even further with the line of the main roof structure ascending towards the sky, is in direct dialogue with "God’s Window" - as if the earth were communing with the heavens.


back to top