Elemental Lense

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Great Primary Shapes House

When architecture and the mathematical elements collide, the outcome could either be a confusing construction or an ingenious creation. Entrusted to the hands of architect Gregory Katz, it is no surprise that the result for the residence of Kelly-Ann Myles and Julie Parker was the latter — a brilliantly complex design that explores the crossover between disciplines.

Challenging tradition

The design takes on a transformative journey, creating a labyrinth of geometric shapes, commencing with a triangle and culminating in a circle. The goal was to produce a design that would challenge conventional ideas of the traditional house, and who better than Gregory Katz to realise this idea.

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‘I presented [the clients] with three options: one in the form of a cube, another as a rectangle, and the third as a hybrid combining elements from both,’ recalls Greg. When Myles and Parker struggled to select a single option, he sketched a rudimentary, yet distinct, digital diagram, combining multiple shapes such as triangles, hexagons, cubes, and circles. Resonating with the clients instantly, they were inspired to push the concept further, suggesting trapezoid windows, which would incite debate and revision throughout the process.

Nestled near the Chinese Nettle

Located in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs, the property captured the hearts of the owners because of its majestic Chinese Nettle tree, which channelled a sense of simple beauty and contemporariness. The plot covers a considerable 1 600 m², with the house occupying a mere 275 m², leaving ample space for the garden, pool, and entertainment area.

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Inviting exploration and delight

The concept for Greg’s adventurous undertaking originated from a book that fascinated him—Euclid’s Elements. ‘As I delved into the book, I became captivated by the idea of creating a structure where the exterior of each shape is composed of different materials, while the interior materials remain consistent, thereby unifying the spaces,’ he elaborates. ‘Since the design unfolded from the outside in, it became one of the most unconstrained projects I’ve ever undertaken, devoid of any fixed formulas or constraints.’ 

Further inspiration is attributed to Greg’s earlier experiences with renowned architects such as Zvi Hecker, known for his emphasis on geometry and asymmetry, and Daniel Liebeskind, renowned for his deconstructive and fragmented style. He shares, ‘Working alongside visionaries like Zvi and Daniel teaches you to embrace bravery, boldness, and independent thinking.’ The Great Primary Shapes House embodies that sentiment and stands as a demonstration of uniqueness, courage, boldness, and sheer excitement.

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The outcome is a four-bedroom dwelling that not only exceeds its functional purpose but also offers a joyful and stimulating environment. The interconnected living spaces create seamless cohesion, with the outdoors strategically accompanied by the trapezoid windows.  The architect’s intent was to invite exploration and delight in every corner, captivating the imagination with its progressive metamorphosis. Part of the house’s distinctive charm lies in the fact that the façade wows without paint or decoration; each shape possesses and facilitates its own unique identity and distinctive character.

Tackling tricky tapering

The triangular entryway was not initially part of the design, but was incorporated to accommodate the double volume hall and staircase. Incorporating a staircase within the A-frame structure was especially challenging, as the triangular shape tapers as it ascends, making the space easily cluttered. So, Greg experimented with angling the staircase on the floor plan and discovered that by aligning it just right, it could climb at the perfect 3D angle, following the contour of the wall. This non-axial placement also allowed space for the entrance door at the base of the stairs, adding a fascinating association and harmony between floor plan and section.

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For the interior, the clients wanted a space that was special and unique, while still being comfortable, functional, and unfussy. Not looking for a lot of décor, Cameron Collective ensured that each piece was thoughtfully selected or custom designed. To create small bursts of excitement among the desired muted feel, pops of colour like an emerald fireplace were added. The result is a holistic environment where the furniture, artwork, and architecture all complement each other and allow enough room for each element to sing. For a duo that needed a freethinking, stimulating residence, the Great Primary Shapes House could not have been a better product of Gregory Katz’s inspired vision. Meticulously executed, the geometry of the house is a testament to the prolific possibilities of great architecture.

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