The Cape farmhouse redefined
GASS Architecture Studio shows us what contemporary family living looks like among the vineyards.
There’s a visual thread that links many of the projects of GASS Architecture Studio; they’re typically low slung with crisp lines, little fuss and speak to local context. This Cape winelands home fits right into that dialogue and also consciously responds to its owners’ requirements. You may have seen it a while back in a local décor mag, but this time around, we’d like to showcase more of the home’s thoroughly considered architectural features.
Set on 17 acres of farmland and enveloped by a patchwork of vineyards, the building is backed up against a granite hill outside Stellenbosch. Owners Rupert and Kay live there together with their three children, of which the younger two are separated by a 14-year age gap. The latter makes a significant impact on the individual needs of their living spaces and the importance of zoning areas under the same roof.
A secondary challenge presented in the form of its gradient; taking in views of the Helderberg mountains and further still, Table Mountain, comes at a price and that price is a steep slope within which to carve out even ground. GASS director Georg van Gass and his team responded with a staggered layout. “It is, in essence, a reworking of a farmhouse typology,” he explains of the property which hugs the contours of the Hottentots Holland mountains.
Working with the land, the home is arranged over three stacked levels and is comprised of a group of connected buildings which naturally enclose a semi-private courtyard, maximising on light and accounting for the slope. This arrangement also allows for an unusual relationship with the environment; on one side the hill tumbles down into the home’s view and on the other, lofty views are gained to the front thanks to the added height. Two guest suites exist on the lower ground level, with the main living areas, pool deck, wine cellar and courtyard on the ground level, and the bedrooms, reading room and study sharing the upper level.
The arrival court reveals a large plane of smooth plastered, whitewashed wall with an industrial waterspout which stands proud of the building, channeling rainwater off the roof and into a pond below. Adjacent to it, a stone façade runs northward before turning to run the length of the northern face using granite sourced from the surrounding site. The stonework serves to connect the building with the site visually as well as contextually, while offering a contrast to the crispness of the plastered white walls. The latter, Georg explains, “make reference to the vernacular architecture,” albeit in a contemporary manner.
The choice of materials throughout the home is authentic and relevant to the winelands climate: stone harvested from the site, Massaranduba timber decking on the veranda, off-shutter concrete and a mix of both flamed granite floor tiles and oak floorboards inside. All of these deliver a message that’s unpretentious and max out on longevity too.
“It is a house that works functionally over multiple levels but stays grounded and connects with nature on all levels,” says Georg. Effectively, it rewrites farmhouse living for the 21st century, all the while paying respect to climate, context and vernacular.