Nico van der Meulen, founder of Nico van der Meulen Architects, designed this residence in a leafy Johannesburg suburb for his family, but also to use as his studio. At that time he just started his own practice and decided to work from his home, specializing in the design of up-market residences.
Nico always believed in passive design and designed the house facing 15 degrees east of north, with thick 660mm north facing walls, to firstly create mass to store heat and secondly sun control. Clay tiles were used over the concrete roofs to create insulation, and protect the waterproofing against the Highveld sun.
Five atria were incorporated into the design, with an existing deciduous tree retained in the one atrium to act as an umbrella over the house and large water feature to help cool the house in summer. In another atrium a fast growing palm tree indigenous to South Africa was planted, with groundcovers to act as a natural cooling agent, and black bamboo screens in two of the other atria.
The open plan living area incorporates a double volume family room with a water feature leading onto the lanai and an oversized pool. Situated between the kitchen, family room, dining room and lanai, the breakfast room acts as the pivot for this area.