PARKTOWN – Back to the future


This free-standing heritage house is part of a significant group of cottages known as the Eckstein Compound, built on Barkly Road in 1903 for use by officials of ‘The Corner House’ mining group. It was designed by Herbert Baker’s office, in partnership with Francis Edward Massey. The most important elements of these cottages, most of which survive in their original form in this house, include the small scale, the iconic square pitched corrugated iron roof, and the tall, simple shape of the plastered chimneys with their slightly corbelled caps, which, when viewed from the street, give a quaint look.

Though the years gone by have seen this house undergo changes, many of which were unsympathetic and detracted from the original architectural charm and subtlety, the owners nevertheless purchased the property with the vision of restoring and upgrading the house. Following extensive research into the heritage context, and discussions with the Parktown Heritage Association, the clients’ brief was achieved through a series of interventions which enhanced and upgraded the original ‘cottagey’ nature of the building.

GSA took the approach to rectify and enhance the heritage elements; to restore some features that were more in keeping with the original design such as the high Oregon pine skirtings and moulded architraves, original wide strip timber flooring, as well as pressed steel ceilings, and replacing some windows added in later years with sashes styled on original models. Other interventions included structural strengthening of unstable original roof trusses, the replacement of the front façade’s faux art deco elements with a simple lean-to-roof reminiscent of the period vernacular ‘stoep’ with columns, and improved functionality and flow of spaces and rooms.

A key consideration in the project was to reduce the house’s environmental footprint by improving energy use and thermal efficiency through the implementation of better insulation, a smart glass solution, passive solar heating and improved natural lighting. The maximisation of living spaces, and remodelling of the kitchen and bathroom areas all result in a modern, comfortable living environment in an old-world setting.