Text: Alexander Opper Styling: Sven Alberding Photographs: Greg Cox
Architect Gregory Katz reinterprets Le Corbusier’s famous Dom-Ino as a 21st-century Johannesburg version of a machine for living in.
For architect Greg Katz, the design of several family homes in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs has served as a testing ground for his maturing practice. His own brand-new home represents the most recent example of this attitude.
At his house, on a balmy late-summer afternoon, Greg relayed an uncommon aesthetic preference: ‘I love the raw, pared-down visual quality of generic parking garages.’
Greg and Caryn’s home commands a self-assured yet unassuming presence. Its street-facing façade presents a restrained palette of materials, colours and textures. Concrete grey and the soft pinkish-red of its expressive brickwork inform the home’s overall character. A Mediterranean blue announces the slender front door and a punchy yellow emphasises carefully placed door and window openings.
Greg’s affinity for concrete was honed over a decade ago in the family’s first purpose-built house. Three kids later, this home is softer and more nuanced than its predecessor. It’s a fine example of the versatility permitted by a concrete skeleton. The Katz’s house sits comfortably in the lineage of structural concrete-frame potential that Le Corbusier stimulated over a century ago, with the 1914 launch of his famous Dom-Ino concrete frame.
Always searching for fresh uses for existing materials, Greg came upon an unusual decommissioned bevelled brick. He used its sill-like character in a playful way for the home’s non-load-bearing walls. The result echoes the beautifully textured nature of the brick infill façades of a bygone Johannesburg era.
The use of brickwork, even though precise and controlled, is playful. The bevelled brick is turned this way and that, accomplishing a crisp, pleated texture. This approach lends the home’s façades a fabric-like quality, evoking the famous German architect and writer Gottfried Semper’s reminder to us that some of architecture’s earliest walled enclosures were, in fact, made using textiles.