By Arné Gunter, Earthworld Architects

At Earthworld Architects’ House Dreyer at the Mooikloof Estate in Pretoria, the way the home engaged with a nearby lake became the most important design informant. The lake was used as a natural backdrop and view to be appreciated in every single room of the house.

Image credit: Earthworld Architects

Image credit: Earthworld Architects

Project information

Design team Braam de Villiers
Rudi Botha
Technical team Nerisha Bezuidenhout
Madeleine Haycock
Ulrich  Pieterse
Location Mooikloof Estate, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa


House Dreyer is located adjacent to a small lake on the large residential farm of Mooikloof Estate in Pretoria East. The property, a little bigger than one hectare, is in a valley on the southern part of the estate. The house is hidden among bushes and trees but reveals itself on the bank of the lake at the centre of the site.

The lake is part of the stormwater drainage system of the estate and creates a beautiful natural biome. The building was designed as three pavilions in relation to the lake. Two stereotomic pavilions of brick and concrete support a third timber pavilion floating above.

The first brick pavilion is the outbuildings and office south of the main house. The outbuilding forms one edge of the central courtyard. The roof of the outbuilding is planted to form a continuous natural edge to the street.

The ground floor of the house is also a brick and concrete box. Openings into the brick structure are gradually made larger towards the lake. The view to the lake is framed with decks and a natural pool.

The floating timber box of the first storey functionally holds the bedrooms of the house. The complete first storey is constructed from timber. The timber box floats over the brick box below and its floating effect is accentuated by the skew angle turn of the timber box above the brick box. The massive cantilever to the west further accentuates the floating timber box.

Emphasis was placed on the timber construction that consist of the use of Finish Larch on the exterior, a laminated Saligna structure and a Birch Plywood interior.

The house blends in with the natural environment and compliments the natural features of the site. On another level it also spatially plays between the mass of the brickwork and the lightness of the timber structure.

Architecture and design methods

Conceptually, the ground floor brick and concrete box fitted optimally in the site’s contours to minimise disturbances on the landscape. The lighter timber first floor diverges from the base to face true north and the lake directly – optimising views and solar gain. All the living spaces face and opens towards the beautiful lake while functional, service spaces and the outbuilding form an enclosed courtyard for privacy.

Technical details

Choosing to build the first floor entirely with timber allowed for a lighter, more ephemeral design. The first floor, containing all the bedrooms, is a warm comfortable space but well insulated to minimise heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer.

Exterior timber walls require special attention to prevent rot, water ingress or warping of the timber. The exterior Finish larch is robust and weather resistant while turning a silvery grey over time – however to ensure it remained dry the whole external skin is separated from the interior by ventilated air gap. The airgap accompanied by a vapor barrier on an inner OSB wall and a sharp drip on the soffit edges ensures the timber structure remained as dry as possible.