HANS VILJOEN
architect + urban researcher

2009
house for a blind writer
Muckleneuk, Pretoria, SA

Designing for a blind person
prompted issues of marginality – living
on the threshold. It is maybe in
this liminal state that we can be true
to ourselves,our being. La Shure said
that in this threshold, “…human beings
are stripped of anything that
might differentiate them from their
fellow human beings – they are in between
the social structure, temporarily
fallen through the cracks… and it is in
these cracks, in the interstices of social
structure, that they are most aware of
themselves.” Th is dwelling provides
its dweller with opportunities to experience
a range of liminal phenomena,
of which the stair channel is the most
impressive. It consists of two levels of
stairs, the top one forming a U-shaped
concrete channel and connecting the two
roof gardens. Th e bottom stairs are of
steel to amplify the noise of ascending
and descending in the house. The
concrete is cut with slits, admitting
late afternoon sun and air to confuse
inside with outside, enclosure with
exposure. Th e perforations intensify
to the top, where the channel opens
to a landing suspended between the
earth and the sky – stairs leading to
nowhere. It becomes a dynamic diagonal
sculpture of massive concrete
to control traffic noise.

University of Pretoria. BSc Arch. 2nd year design studio