The Swartberg House was designed for a family of stargazers to enjoy the desert landscape in South Africa. Located in the Great Karoo region, the home experiences the highs and lows of sweltering heat in summer and freezing cold in winter. To ensure the home maintained a comfortable temperature inside, London-based Openstudio Architects carefully designed the home to be super insulated, meeting passive house standards. As a plus, the rooftop terraces, orientation and window openings are all positioned based on star alignment so the family can enjoy the night sky whether they are inside or outdoors.
Located about four hours from Cape Town, the Swartberg House is situated between mountain ranges on a remote site in a semi-desert landscape. The remote location allows for dark, star-filled nights, which was perfect for the London-based family for their vacation house. Big swings in temperature from winter to summer also meant the home needed to stay warm during the freezes, cool in the summers, and handle periods of inactivity while the owners were away. They hired Openstudio Architects to tackle the design of the home, incorporating stargazing terraces and making the home efficient, durable and sustainable.
Because of the remote location, away from suppliers and contractors, Openstudio spend a long time carefully designing the home to ensure they could source sustainable materials and transport them easily. Oriented on an east-west axis, the passive home is built from brick and concrete with a limewash-on-rough-cast plaster on both the exterior and the interior. Thermal mass in the walls and brick floors ensures a slow transfer of energy to even out indoor temperatures. Windows on the north help soak up sunlight during the winter and adjustable shades can be closed to block out the sun in the summer. The home also features sustainably-sourced ash wood, LED lights, and passive stack ventilation. The terraces on the roof, windows and wall slits were all carefully placed in accordance with constellation locations.
Images ©Openstudio Architects