Perched on a giant granite boulder overlooking the Gota Dam sits this 1,500 sq meter home in Zimbabwe. A collaboration between Studio Seilern Architects and Muzia Sforza, their first African project earned them a 2013 RIBA International Award.
Gota Residence in Zimbabwe
The 1500 sqm building is situated atop a granite rock overlooking a large man-made dam, or reservoir for the extensive surrounding farmland. The area is, to say the least, breathtaking and awe-inspiring, and deserved a piece of architecture that is equally awe-inspiring.
The house consists of three basic elements: two granite blocks that enclose the bedrooms and support spaces, an oversized timber platform and cantilevering roof that frame the panoramic views and create shaded living spaces, and two glass boxes that enclose the winter living areas, emphasizing the feeling of living within natural granite.
Apart from specialist items such as the glass and roof waterproofing, all materials were sourced locally. Granite cut-offs from the excavation were used to clad the two anchor blocks, ensuring the building blended harmoniously with its spectacular surroundings.
A small horizon pool at the lower level visually integrates the dam reservoir with the lower levels of the house.
The daytime living spaces are truly open, at once both indoors and outdoors, but sandwiched between the dominant architectural elements of roof and floor (or more accurately, elevated deck). The magnificent views out into the wider landscape are accentuated, while the connection to the immediate encroaching forest is ever-present.
Oversized cantilevered roofs and extensive terraces frame the views and provide shelter from the vertical African sun. These are designed to focus the eye to the horizon, while creating shaded exterior spaces for living and dining areas.
Two granite blocks, enclosing bedrooms and support spaces, anchor the building into the rock allowing it to become part of the surrounding topography.
Obvious challenges of building in Zimbabwe limit options for construction, but this is turned to an advantage to give the scheme an earthy quality through the use of locally sourced materials and even salvaged boards to shutter the concrete, itself reliant on hand-mixers.
All elements are oriented to create physical adjacencies and visual privacy. The house sits on levels ranging between 112 and 116 meters above sea level on the edge of a cliff and there’s another 50 meter drop to the reservoir.
A small horizon pool at the lower level of the residence visually integrates the dam reservoir with the lower levels of the house.
The owner, being a musician, required a place to retire and compose and record her music. Strategically placed windows, creating corners and band cuts into the granite cube, framed dramatic and inspiring views of the cliff and the jungle below.
The project had to deal with issues of hyper-inflation and lack of available material. All materials were sourced locally, except for specialist items such as the glass and the roof waterproofing. The granite used to clad the two anchor blocks were the ‘crusts’ cut-off that came from the granite excavation. The dynamite drill holes are still apparent and tie the building to the area of excavation. Using the granite from the site also insured that the building blended harmoniously with its surroundings.
Garage: Inspired by the rich local culture of basket weaving, a garage cover was devised using different sized rebars and weaved to form a sun-shading canopy over cars. This canopy is supported by simple I-beams on one side and anchored to a large existing boulder on the other side. Climbing flowering creepers are envisioned to cover the whole canopy, softening greening the steel weave.
A Recording Studio: The owner being a musician required a place to retire and compose/record her music. Strategically placed windows, creating corners and band cuts into the granite cube offer dramatic views of the cliff and the jungle below.
Location: East Africa
Scope: Private Residence
Area: 1,500 sqm
GOTA DAM PROJECT
Architect: Sforza Seilern Architects
Local Architect: Architexture
Structural Engineer: Eckersley O’Callaghan
Local Structural Engineer: Marcussen and Cocksedge
Services Engineer: DSA Engineering Ltd
Local Services Engineer: Lage Consultants
Lighting Consultant: BDP Lighting
Quantity Surveyor: Matrix Quantity Surveyors