Two teenagers, Josie 14 and Matt 17 needed a place to stay as the 1 bedroom cottage occupied by their father, Jeremy Steere was too small. The option was to build another floor on top of the existing cottage or find a site on the 900sqm property in Mtunzini (120km north of Durban) to build the 2 bedrooms. Finding an alternative place to stay during the construction of a top floor addition was a challenge and the brilliant sea views from the high part of the site were what influenced the decision to build the new bedrooms on the steeply sloped portion of the site.
Human settlement in rural Africa is characterized by small-scale buildings generally circular or square in plan. The idea here was to build the two towers using “maintenance free” local materials. The result is a square en-suite bedroom tower and around spiral staircase tower. The staircase tower leads to the two bedrooms and to the top terrace. There is a two-story height limit in Mtunzini which resulted in the top roof-terrace being left without a safety balustrade making it essentially an uninhabitable place for the placement of solar panels. Future “sala” with no solar panels is the intention.
The configuration of the bedroom facing the Indian Ocean view (timber floors) and the bathroom behind it with concrete floor led to the obvious position for the shower – outside and with a sea-view. The bedrooms are accessed by generous brick stairs which form part of the social “street space” at the foot of the towers where the retaining wall becomes a wide seat. The main cottage deck with a Bedouin Stretch tent over it overlooks this social street space and provides for interaction on the 4 various levels: the street, 1st-floor bedroom deck, 2nd-floor bedroom deck and the timber deck level.
To alleviate the ongoing cost of maintenance there are no finishes in these buildings. It’s a clay-common face-brick cavity wall bedroom tower and a cement-brick spiral stair tower laid as a breeze block. The circular walls of the tower also act as the balustrade and support for the two bridges. These bridges are the only two points of contact between the wall and 3CR12 stainless steel spiral stairs.
The property is located in a highly corrosive environment, 800m from the sea; the choice of material for the staircase was influenced not only by the corrosive nature of environment but by being an easy material to weld on site. The treads were welded on-site onto a 100mm diameter central pipe. The floors of the bedrooms are 32mm SAP sealed with an “eco-friendly” product called “Pro-nature”. The same floor planks were used to shutter the roof terrace resulting in the ceiling is a mirror image of the floors. Text from the architects.
Building Area: 75m2
Address: Mtunzini, South Africa
Photographer: Kim Steinberg, Mlungisi Mathe