Clay brick enhances "off-the-grid" Waterberg retreat
Architecture collective Frankie Pappas has hidden the 3.3-metres-wide House of the Big Arch within the Bushveld nature reserve in the north of South Africa.As the house was located an hour-and-a-half drive to the nearest town, the architecture collective decided to make it an off-grid home – not connected to water or electricity networks. Clay brick is the ideal choice as it's dense mass provides natural insulation from temperature extremes.
The unusual form of the skinny house is a direct result of its unique location within a nature reserve, surrounded by forest and alongside sandstone cliffs.Frankie Pappas designed the home so that it would be enveloped by the surrounding forest and sit within the canopies of the existing trees. The house's long, thin shape was determined by the location of the trees so that not even one tree had to be felled during its construction.
The building utilises a very simple set of materials. The bathroom and chimneys are constructed from a rough stock brick; selected to match the site’s weathered sandstone. The bedroom is built from sustainably-grown timbers with glass and aluminium to fill the gaps between the timber structure.
The house’s upper floor includes a planted courtyard, a lounge, a dining room, and a farmhouse kitchen and scullery. The ground floor provides additional courtyards as well as a study, a library, and a small swing bench. finally, on the lower level, the cellar offers a climate conducive to curing meats, storing food supplies, and aging wines
The bridge portions of the house are constructed from timber and span between the monolithic brick structures. A lounge area is contained with the first brick support and a dining area on the first bridge connecting to a kitchen in the second brick element.
The second timber bridge leads to an outdoor patio containing an oven and a small pool supported on a brick arch, from which the house takes its name. A swing hangs beneath the arch. The fireplace at the end of the building is the culmination of the house's spatial sequence – and sits about four metres above the forest floor.