Architect Review - Gatehouses

Private Property South Africa
Charles Taylor


The past five years has seen an unprecedented growth in the amount of gated

townhouse developments and golfing estates within South Africa, each with their

own, sometimes unique and other at times not so unique, architectural

characters. Gatehouses form the entrance "artwork" to these developments and act

to enhance and entice visitors and residents alike into the realms of their

boundaries. This article serves to be a broad review on some architecturally

unique and varied examples of how this aspect of the modern day townhouse

development has been dealt with.

Brettenwood Coastal Estate
The gatehouse draws on master architect, Frank Lloyd Wright's principles of building in harmony with nature and is designed to honour "Falling Water", his most famous project. The strong horizontal lines, use of cantilevers, natural stone, glass and colours as well as large windows are all principles incorporated into the design of the gatehouse and reflect the proposed architectural aesthetic for the rest of the estate. A cascading water feature and vertical plastered element to the left, sensitively breaks the symmetry of the building. A colonnade of palm trees and landscaped garden area acts as a transition space between the hard edge of the road and the gatehouse, and leads one into the development. There is also another water feature directly adjacent to the road, which has incorporated an original donkey drawn mill dating back to the early 1880's and adds a historical flavour to the entrance experience (see inset).
Contrary to the estates modern colonial theme, the gatehouse design is appropriately different with a truly modern approach. Simple, bold openings and horizontal forms characterise this gatehouse. It is an unimposing and sensitive approach to the surrounding environment and acts as a filter, which draws one into the estate; at the same time framing the view inside. The introduction of vertical timber slats in front of the security booth adds some texture and layering to the overall design. A stone gabion wall flanks the gatehouse on either side and provides the backdrop for the stainless steel signage denoting the estate (see inset).
Legends golf and safari estate
This gatehouse has not yet been built, but has been included to indicate that natural materials can be used in a futuristic yet sensitive way. It is the entrance to an exclusively upmarket golf and safari estate close to Entembeni in the Limpopo province. The overall feel is one of 'flight'. A central, circular supporting structure acts as a bracing element from which two curvilinear spines project in opposite directions. Steel struts are incorporated into these spines to form truss elements, which in turn, are supported on either end by steel posts.
Olympus country estate
A horizontal floating feel characterises this gatehouse and the contrast between modern and natural materials is also experimented with. The structure is comprised of four groups of steel posts (bolted to stone plinths) arranged in groups of four supporting struts, which hold up a steel roof frame. The roof is covered with IBR sheeting, but the bottom side of the roof is cleverly reticulated with circular gum pole slats, which are attached to the underside of suspended gumpole rafters. The central guard's area is comprised of a rectilinear plastered wall, which adds to the variety of textures incorporated within the design.
Simbithi eco-estate
Conceptually the gatehouses are 'light in feel' with timber elements, large openings and double pitched roofs with exposed trusses and corrugated aluminium coverings. Due to the vast size of this estate various entrances have been incorporated in different areas. These entrances all have the same basic theme. The play between steel and rustic timber slats enhances the feel of the design, while a galvanized mild steel grillage acts as the backdrop to the signage.


Brettenwood: MAB Architects

Dunkirk: OMM Design Workshop

Legends: Craig Nel Architects](

Simbithi: Archangels Architects

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