Upper Houghton Ridge



Two primary attributes inform this design: The breath-taking views the site offers over the northern and western suburbs of Johannesburg from the crest of Houghton Ridge, and the heritage value of the original house, designed by architect Robert Howden in 1909. In- dependent research, in consultation with the Upper Houghton Residence Association, had assessed architectural and cultural significance to derive primarily from being part of the body of work of the much-respected architectural firm of Howden and Stewart Architects.

Against this background the client’s brief was twofold – to rehabilitate and restore the house, to its original state and style, and to accommodate their functional requirements as a family. In the old house, a symmetrical “H” shape layout with two wings, technological interventions aimed at improved thermal performance, water and power consumption, while inefficiencies in the layout of the existing house were addressed by opening up the cluttered western wing to create free-flowing living spaces, and rationalizing the east wing for the bedrooms.

The most important characteristic of the layout that was retained and enhanced is the central spine, which celebrates a dramatic progression from an open entrance court and porch, via a theatrical half-round entrance hall into a living room, finally progressing to a covered patio that invites one to sit and watch the magnificent view.

New additions are kept apart, with extensions to the bedroom wing accessed via glazed bridges across a herb garden to the east, and a new art studio set on the crest of the hill to the north-west to make the most of the dramatic setting.

While the original Howden house was rehabilitated and restored to its original classic design, these new buildings are contemporary and minimalistic in their aesthetic expression – sitting quietly, flanking the house, complementing and enhancing its original splendour.

Featured in Garden&Home Magazine.