• Deen Gabriel

Skinny off-grid home that disappears into the tree canopy of an SA nature reserve

Frankie Pappas, an architecture studio based in Johannesburg, has designed a home in South Africa's Bushveld ecoregion that's virtually invisible to the untrained eye.

Called The House of the Big Arch, it weaves between the red sandstone cliffs and riverine forest of the Waterberg Reserve about three hours north of the city.

At the owners' request, the studio took care to respect the surrounding environment when building the home.

Before embarking on the project, Frankie Pappas laser-scanned the entire site and used the resulting 3D 'digital forest' to inform the design.

"Any funky bulges and protrusions in the plan of the building were dictated by where trees allowed us to build," the team wrote in their project description, noting that no trees were demolished during construction.

The result is a long, custom, and seriously skinny building that appears to float through the tree canopy.

Past the entrance, the house is just 11 feet wide.

The main level includes a sunlit lounge, dining room, and kitchen ...

... as well as an outdoor deck with a fireplace.

Timbered wood bridges connect different sections of the building.

Downstairs, a cellar keeps wine and cured meats cool.

Due to its remote location, the home is off-grid, relying on rainwater collection and solar panels for energy.

"This building is a careful and direct response to this particular portion of this particular riverine forest of this particular portion of the Waterberg of this particular portion of the Bushveld," the studio wrote. "This architecture could exist nowhere else in the world."


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