The structure was designed to frame its surroundings
The structure was designed to frame its surroundings

Inspiring home of the week: A House on a Rock in Kenya

The peculiarly located home features year-round fresh dam water, a swimming pool and recording studio

Megan Townsend@mmtowns
Thursday 24 May 2018 14:54
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This unusual house that is on top of a quarry in Kenya, appears to be built into the mountainside, resting neatly above an outstretched rock.

Designed as the first African project of Sforza Seilern Architects (a collaboration between London-based Studio Seilern and Muzia Sforza), the concept of the home came from the dramatic way the site’s granite cliff side plunges 50 metres into the dam below.

The architects wanted to create interior areas that hid little scenery from dwellers so the whole structure works to frame the surroundings, providing breathtaking views of the neighbouring farmland.

Two granite blocks and an oversized cantilevering roof and timber platform jut out between them. The granite blocks serve as a separation element to enclose the bedrooms and smaller spaces, whereas the roof, that appears to gently float above the structure, frames the panoramic views and creates shaded, cool living spaces. Two glass boxes contain the winter living areas, using the natural granite of the rock below to maintain temperature and air flow.

During the project, the architects ran into major problems with the Kenyan economy. Hyper-inflation made it difficult to pay workers, and made a lot of the locally sourced materials scarce. However, A House on a Rock still managed to be completed with some luxurious amenities. An infinity pool visually marries together the dam water with the lower levels of the home, and the designers managed to even create a large garage inspired by local basket-weaving techniques, with a canopy overhead covered by pretty flowering creepers.

The client, who is a musician, even has a built-in recording studio with windows looking over the cliff and jungle for artistic inspiration.

We talked to Studio Seilern about their House on a Rock:

How would you sum up the project in five words?

An ambitious project that stemmed from the resilience and determination from both the client and the architect… and an adventure.

What was the brief for this project?

A house on an unusual site in an unusual country for an unusual client.

What did you hope to solve as you designed this home?

The ambitions to match this majestic landscape. Anything too shy or too apologetic may have missed the boat.

What makes this space unique?

The views and the rock. You really feel that you inhabit nature rather than a house: it infiltrates every corner of the place.

What was your inspiration for this project?

The scheme was an intuitive reaction to the site. The sun, the views, the rock, all manifested themselves in the design choices we made.

What was the toughest issue you encountered when this building was being designed and built?

The political condition of the country, hyperinflation, and the difficulty to source materials.

What do you wish you could change in hindsight?

Not much. Maybe we should have pushed the client to get certain things sourced in Europe. The quality of the joinery could have been better, for example.

What sort of experience do you hope people using this space have?

One of awe and surprise. In fact, the client often sends me pictures at different times of the day. We do not control every aspect of this project. It seems to have taken on an identity of its own, which truly delights us.

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