renovation, houses

Renovation: Before & After House #1 Georg van Gass

When undertaking the renovation of his Johannesburg home, architect Georg van Gass pushed the potential of the house to improve the public space around it.

Sarah de Pina

‘It was the typical early 1970s ranch-style abode that was almost ubiquitous in the suburbs of Joburg at that time,’ says architect Georg van Gass of his home. ‘But the bones were great’ – and he saw the potential to enact some of his architectural ideals in his renovation.

Positioned in Johannesburg’s Victory Park overlooking the Braamfontein Spruit, Georg and his wife Rhoné were drawn to the property’s ‘interaction with the spruit’. Across the road, there’s a field that slopes down to the stream, along which runs a mountain-biking track. There’s a constant stream of humanity passing by and Georg realised that if he carried out his renovation in the right way, he could ‘utilise the public domain’.

Rather than set back behind a wall, the home was built on the street and to one side, which Georg considers to be a perfect position. ‘When I design a house, I like to push it to one side of the property so you can have garden space,’ he says.

When undertaking the renovation of his Johannesburg home, architect Georg van Gass pushed the potential of the house to improve the public space around it | House and Leisure

 

ALSO READ: all the other Before & After House and Room renovation finalists.
 

While the original entrance was on the side of the building, Georg had the front door opening directly onto the road. He raised the house’s street-facing wall and ceiling, and changed the flooring, so it could work as a main entrance. There’s a security gate, but it’s subtle rather than forbidding. ‘Be sensible about security, but be friendly,’ he says.

 

Continuing this theme of friendliness, he added a floating glass box above the garage and a balcony above the street, where you can stand at the kitchen island and look down to the spruit. 

 

When undertaking the renovation of his Johannesburg home, architect Georg van Gass pushed the potential of the house to improve the public space around it | House and LeisureWhen undertaking the renovation of his Johannesburg home, architect Georg van Gass pushed the potential of the house to improve the public space around it | House and Leisure

 

The island is one of the first things you see in the living space at the top of the stairs, which has been opened up both inside and to the garden. During the renovation, the wall between the living room and patio was removed and replaced with a glass door that slides away entirely to reveal views over the garden. A low wall in front of the house was built to support a rail for the door to allow it to disappear, which became a key part of the renovation to the rear side of the home. In front of the kids’ rooms, the wall forms a planter, and as it reaches the main bedroom, it becomes a rail for another disappearing door. The doors needed a beam at the top, too, which became a detail behind which Georg hid the gutter, giving the house a sleek facade.

 

Georg refers to it as ‘very basic stuff’, but his renovation alterations are ingenious: they make the most of the garden and push the possibilities for architecture to create friendlier suburbs.

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READ MORE: For all the homeowners’ personally recommended renovation contacts, see the Before & After Black Book.