This section is from the book "Modern Buildings, Their Planning, Construction And Equipment Vol6", by G. A. T. Middleton. Also available from Amazon: Modern Buildings.
Footings are usually of cement concrete, with perhaps a less proportion of cement than is used in Great Britain. Rising foundation walls are sometimes in concrete or brick built in cement, but more often of a hard local stone, most of which is beautiful in colour and texture, but too hard to be more than roughly squared. Presumably owing to climatic reasons, a bed of concrete over site is not required by the usual Municipal Bye-Laws or Building Regulations, and consequently is rarely used. Damp courses are usually of sheet asphalt of various qualities, while in cheap work a layer of tar and sand is sometimes used. For ordinary houses the walls are mostly of brick of very poor quality, built in clay or "dagga," i.e. the natural clayey soil common to most South African districts, no satisfactory lime being obtainable except in very few localities. In better class work cement mortar and hard burnt bricks are used, the mortar often then being mixed with even as much as ten of sand to one of cement, and never less than five to one. All external faces of brickwork are cement plastered, either plain face or rough-cast, and are usually coloured afterwards. Now, however, that a better brick is obtainable in all but country districts, a little face brickwork is sometimes seen, but the bricks, although sound, hard, and well burnt, are rough and uneven, and much chipped at angles and edges, and a satisfactory result is not easily obtainable.
Partitions are usually of plaster slabs of various types, either built with smooth or rough faces, and skimmed after erection, lath and plaster scarcely ever being used owing to the poverty of the lime.
The internal plastering is of one or two-coat work; never more than two. In one-coat work, lime and sand in the proportion of one to two and stiffened with 10 per cent. of cement is usually used, although clay or dagga plaster is also much employed, particularly in the country districts. In two-coat work the ground is as before described, and the finishing coat is lime putty.
Ceilings are mostly match lined with 1/2-inch beaded and grooved and tongued boarding, either 6 or 4 inches wide. Steel stamped plates in various designs, imported usually from Canada, are also often used in the more important rooms, and so occasionally are ornamented and enriched fibrous plaster ceilings, the ordinary plaster ceiling and cornice being quite unknown.
Roofs are constructed usually of American Oregon pine in lighter scantlings, and spaced at greater distances than is usual in England. In better work Swedish red deal is used. The covering most in use is corrugated galvanised iron, - perhaps the most unsightly roof covering ever invented, but satisfactory as regards keeping out the driving rain, and cool provided the ceilings are pugged with clay and straw.
Imported Marseilles or English plain tiles or Welsh slates are also used - tiles, whether Marseilles or English, usually being wired or nailed on battens without boarding or felt. Slates are nailed to boarding, and no battens are used.
Roof spaces should be, and almost invariably are, ventilated by means of louvres placed either in gables or dormers.
The floors of rooms consist usually of 6-inch T. & G. imported deal flooring, and occasionally of narrow width pitch pine or maple. Kitchen and office floors are of cement or tiles, while the stoep is paved with cement, tile, or marble.
Joinery in the best houses is usually of teak - at any rate as regards exterior work; otherwise deal is used.
Kitchens are usually fitted with open Swedish, French, or English stoves; in most houses without any hot-water apparatus, but with subsidiary oil or gas stoves, baths being heated by geysers. Sanitary fittings are of the usual types, mostly of British make, and call for no special comment.
Ventilating gratings are usually inserted in walls of all rooms, as well as under floors.
The accompanying illustrations (Figs. 286-292) will perhaps serve to give a general idea of the style and character of the various types of the present-day South African houses, and have been carefully selected as more or less characteristic and typical of the trend of style or styles. In each and all of them some point or other of peculiar suitability to South African conditions of life and character will be found.
Generally speaking, they are houses giving a moderate amount of accommodation at a reasonable cost, although each individually, owing to the expen-siveness of work and materials, would cost from 40 to 70 per cent. more than houses of a like amount of accommodation and appearance in the neighbourhood of London.
They are in most cases erected on suburban sites of sufficient area to allow of suitable and appropriate gardens.
In most if not all of them the question of native and white servants' accommodation has been carefully considered, and the question satisfactorily solved, a problem, too, of almost impossible solution in the smaller type of house, where one servant's room is usually provided, and that entered often from the yard.
The house shown in Fig. 286 is built on the estate lately acquired by the Duke of Westminster, from the designs of Messrs. Baker & Massey, at the now more or less historic place of Thaba'nchu, in the Orange River Colony, and is almost ideal in its studiously simple character and arrangement, the external and internal treatment being alike admirable. It has, moreover, the extreme merit of being thoroughly adapted to the climate and local conditions of the colony in which it is situated. The outer walls are built of local stone (freestone) of extreme beauty, the colour being a warm cream, and the roof is of imported Bridgewater tiles. The style of architecture is based on the Cape Dutch farmhouse of about one hundred or one hundred and fifty years ago, minus its more coarse and redundant features, and the house is almost monastic in its severity of treatment. Considerable departmentalising has been successfully attempted, especially with regard to the bedrooms, those for the coloured servants being admirably cut off from the rest of the house. The stoeps and galleries provide air and shade, while all parts are well lighted and communication is easy.
Fig. 287 shows a house of a different type, designed by Messrs. A. & W. Reid & East, situated in the seaside suburb of Cape Town, known as Sea Point. The site is a corner one, rather circumscribed, but with magnificent views over the sea and distant mountains of the Cape Peninsula to the north-east. The house was planned so as to obtain a view from as many of the rooms as possible, and at the same time to be sheltered from the prevailing summer wind (S.E.), which rages with terrific violence at times on most of the coast towns. Dining and billiard-rooms were to be as large as possible, and only a small drawing or visitors' room was required, and few but large bedrooms.
The stoep and balcony were to be as shady and cool as possible, while a special point was made of the aspect of, and right amount of sunlight to, the conservatory - a point often neglected in planning for this climate, as too much sun is undesirable.
The house was built in hard brickwork in cement, and finished in rough-cast and smooth plaster on a local pinky brown tinted stone foundation, the last being carried up to the coping of stoep dwarf wall and sill moulding of bay window, the chimneys, etc., being left unplastered with struck joints. For economic reasons the joinery throughout was of deal, except where hard wood was absolutely necessary. The windows are glazed with leaded light, some of which is rather of elaborate design, and well carried out locally. The roofs are covered with very dark brindled Broseley tiles, and form a pleasing and effective contrast to the cream-and-white walls and surrounding fir trees and hill.
Suburban House. Sea Point-Cape Town: