A CITY OASIS BY ANTHONY ORELOWITZ

Architect Anthony Orelowitz beats the threat of blindness to build his sanctuary in the city.

When Anthony Orelowitz decided to build a new home, he turned to a man renowned for designing commercial buildings, but who hadn’t done a house in fifteen years. He was that man.

Anthony, the chief designer and owner of Paragon Architects, learnt early that without mountain or sea, Joburg homes must create their own sanctuary. This is a lesson he kept top of mind when designing his family home.  

The Insider SA got a special tour of the dream home that takes sanctuary in the water and plant life that runs through and surrounds it on every side.

“When I look at the design of a house or a building, I’m trying to invoke a sense of emotion through the physical space that we create so in a house like this I was trying to create a space that was filled with serenity. It was going to be my oasis within the city,” shares Anthony.

The entrance to the house has a causeway that leads you across a body of water from the inside to the outside, so when sitting inside the building – instead of looking down on the water feature you’re looking across it onto the oasis that sits at the end.

“The house was a new build. The idea for me was really to build a home that had a series of pavilions that utilised the full site, so even the edges of the site became external rooms while the heart of the house is the centralised courtyard.” 

He opted for two different types of slate to be used for the driveway, hand laid to form a pattern of how cars were predicted to move through the space. 

The portholes at the bottom of the pool allow light to filter through to the lower levels so that the external dining area always has mottled light. 

It lends a constantly moving, aqua-marine glow to the downstairs. While above deck, the mosaic design seen at the bottom of the pool, was inspired by maps of the world’s oceans.

Interior Designer Julia Day gave us a tour of the upstairs adult tree-house which is an epic spot to roast a few marshmallows. 

“We have a huge big fire pit which has a sort of cowl that comes down from the roof. I was influenced by one of [Italian architect] Gio Ponti‘s designs for that. It creates a huddling space, so in a huge big flowing house like this it creates a cocooning experience to sit around the fire together,” shares Julia. 

The bathrooms have been a strong feature and focus from the get-go. 

“Anthony said that he would like to feel that he was at a spa when he comes home, and I think that was the approach that I took towards the bathrooms,” she adds. 

The doors of the bathrooms collapse to open the space right up and invite the outside in.   

The home is a feast for the eyes and a privilege for Anthony to see all the elements of his visionary design come to life.

“One of the biggest drivers of my career has been that in my final year of architecture I lost my eyesight and went blind for about three or four months during my thesis. When my eyesight returned it never returned completely, and there was concern that it may be a degenerative disease called retinitis pigmentosa – so I needed a five year window to test whether it was degenerative or a once off occurrence.”

When Anthony finished architecture he practised for one year, and then went back to do an MBA to build another competency in the event his eyes were proven to have a problem. 

“The day those five years were over I went back to practice architecture, but it’s interesting that sometimes through things that can be perceived as negative in one’s life, long term they can add value to your career by giving extra knowledge and really strengthen my ability to practice,” reflects Anthony.      

It appears that life wanted to see what Anthony had to offer. Happily so, for the many who get to live and work in the spaces he’s created.

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