Lulu Kati Kati, Swahili for 'pearl in the middle’, is a jewel of a house at the end of the high street of Melville - on a difficult, brownfield urban site. Whilst obviously in an urban setting, the house exploits the natural features of the site and the view to the koppie beyond, to create a ‘bush oasis’ in the city. A three storey, lightweight timber framed box, the house is slipped between the exposed rock face and an 80 year old Dombeya tree. The framing of the timber fragments the view to the outside, exposing, focusing and reflecting the tree and the koppie in a variety of ways. The sum of the parts is more than one big distant view. Building and landscape are integrated and intertwined – lines are blurred between natural and built. Bursts of colour in the building reflect the same in the surrounding landscape – the kitchen reflects the pink Kapok & Bougainvillea flowers, the bathroom the blue Plumbago. Views change with the changing nature and colour of the seasons and cycles of a day - the experience of these changes is heightened by the building. Sunlight and shadow during the day, distant lights at night, veld fires in winter and brilliant green in summer.
This is a green building on an urban land-fill site. Basic good design principles are considered - natural lighting, ventilation, heating and cooling. In winter, maximum heat penetrates the space while in summer, by opening windows bottom north and top south, a chimney effect cools the space. Breezes up the valley are allowed in at floor level. Hot air rises and exits through high level pivot windows. Solar panels are used to heat domestic water and for under floor heating. Materials used have a low embodied energy, are re-claimed or re-cycled or are materials found on site. The sun-screens are made from invader plants; insulation and privacy screens from re-cycled plastic cut into plant-like forms – always a reference to landscape. Rain water is collected, waters the garden and is filtered through a reed bed to the bio-pool. Pool ‘back – wash’ is also used to water the garden. All new planting is indigenous.