A Mies van der Rohe-Inspired Cottage in Johannesburg

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By Olivia Martin / Published by Dwell
A floating wall on a Johannesburg cottage draws inspiration from local mining moguls and Mies van der Rohe.

Architect Georg van Gass could have stopped the special effects after creating an elevated foundation that allows the prefab home to hover over the landscape. Instead, he went one step further by adding a delicately poised cantilevered exterior wall that appears to slice the deck in half. The impressive visual balancing act relies on a concealed steel truss and has a multitude of uses: The wall prevents visitors from seeing the surrounding vistas until they enter the home, shields the Farnsworth House–inspired bedroom from outside eyes, and carves out a private sanctuary from the main patio space.

A Mies van der Rohe-Inspired Cottage in Johannesburg - Photo 1 of 1 - Architect Georg van Gass adds a delicately poised cantilevered exterior wall that appears to slice the deck in half. Photo by: Elsa Young

Architect Georg van Gass adds a delicately poised cantilevered exterior wall that appears to slice the deck in half. Photo by: Elsa Young

The wall’s granite stones, called Koppie stones after the Afrikaans word koppie, which means "hill" or "outcrop," are abundant in the area. They were often used for the homes of the neighborhood’s original residents—mine owners referred to as the "Randlords." Using Koppie stones was "my tongue-in-cheek element that respects heritage but uses and references it in a new way," said Van Gass.

To see more of Van Gass’s playful take on South African vernacular in this cottage, check out Dwell’s upcoming special issue on Prefab, now on newsstands.