CIfA 2019 Award for Architecture: House Mills – Pinard Architecture Inc.


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Towards the top of one of the hills surrounding the valley, we approached the house on a newly created road leading to it. The approach was marked by silent emptiness, icy wet winds, with only the sound of the howling wind around our tightly secured raincoat hoods.

Out of, and in between the indigenous fynbos, recovering from a drought and fire-stricken year, the dark “burnt” brick block of the house stood, striking in its strong simplicity. The hard, yet beautiful exterior gave glimpses of a very soft and warm interior through its few carefully placed and formed openings.

Entering the house, we were immediately struck by both the overall idea of this house, and the detail of it, which are intrinsically linked. It is a celebration of restraint, with all vertical and horizontal surfaces carefully crafted and detailed from natural materials that seem to be of this land, of this place and of this time.

Two identical steel doors present visitors with mystery and ambiguity. One being a service door, the other being the main entrance. The entrance hall, an intimately scaled space, rich with the textures of natural wood, brick and stone, is a gentle introduction into this warm, protected inner sanctuary. Turning the corner one sees the magical one and a half volume living space, a feast of carefully designed moments allowing for human activity. Every place one stands or sits, is designed so that one delights in not only the close-up experiences of touch and sight, but also the far away, calming and carefully framed views of the surrounding landscape.

While the ground floor high-volumed spaces are grounded in a warm stone floor, the low-volumed upper floor is marked by an abundance of warm wood, which is on the floors and walls. The thick outer brick wall provides a sense of protection, while the timber walls and doors allow for a uniformly warm shared inner world, creating layers of privacy within.

The exquisite detailing of everything, from door handles to beds, to window frames to cupboards, illustrates the architect’s immense respect for wood, for stone, and for the human experience of not only the natural materials used in the building, but also nature in the larger (more philosophical) sense.

This restrained and carefully detailed building provides a modest and humble backdrop for its inhabitants’ lives. It is a masterpiece.

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