The conservation of architecture belonging to the Modern Movement or its various off- shoots has been sorely neglected in South Africa in general and in the Free State in particular. House Horne was acquired by the Roodt Partnership in 2000 and converted into offices. After being neglected for some time and also being uninhabited for nearly 2 years, extensive repair work and maintenance were required to bring the house back to its former condition.

The house was designed by Frikkie Horne and his wife Silja Horne in the early 1970’s. The architect was concerned that the house would have an ideal North position so that the house could benefit from less sun in Summer and a more sunny aspect in Winter. Silja remembers that they wanted the protection of the three courtyards, but also retain the “transparency that makes one part of the Karoo type nature and landscape that stretches out to the North all the way to Cairo.”

The house was completed in February 1974 and built in 4 months (too fast according to the owners). In their view details and finishes suffered in the process. Notably the kitchen area as well as the bathrooms were not particularly well-finished.

During the rehabilitation process, the Roodt Partnership found that the generous dimensions of the various spaces, as well as the extremely functional and simple lay out of the building, made the conversion to offices an easy exercise. It was not necessary to remove any part of the structure to accommodate new functions. The only changes that were made to the house, were the alterations to the bathrooms, minor changes to the swimming pool, the conversion of the kitchen to a library and the conversion of the pantry to a small kitchen. In many of the instances above, the existing cupboards or sanitary fittings were in an advanced stage of disrepair, and have already been changed or repaired by various contractors over the years.

Architecturally, the house belongs to the modernist lineage, and in particular to what has become known as the patio house. The patio house developed in the western Cape, largely influenced by Revel Fox and also in the Johannesburg and Pretoria suburbs. The 1950’s and 1960’s saw the mature phase of the development of this housing type. These houses differ in detail, scale and functional lay-out but also have many aspects in common. The Horne residence has a painted (white) fair face exterior, with smoothly plastered interior walls. Typically these patio houses had a bagged plaster finish. The living areas of the Horne residence have quarry tile floors. The kitchen features a huge fireplace that reminds of the typical farmhouse. The former living room has built-in seating and ledges for the exhibition of artworks and ceramics. The latter being a particular occupation of Silja Horne, and many people still fondly remember exhibition evenings that got out of hand.

Typically, the enclosed patio areas all feature mature trees and in this particular instance the ancient Olea Africana was taken into account when the house was sited.

The north façade of the house, which has a more or less a T-shape plan, has large glazed surfaces in stained meranti wooden frames. The east façade is protected by large sliding shutters. This also underlines the rural vernacular that Horne seemed to embrace. The roof has a vary flat slope and is finished with IBR sheeting.

Although the house appeared towards the end of the popularity of this type of dwelling, it should rate as one of the most excellent examples of this design preoccupation. This would certainly be the case in the Free State.

For a discussion of the Patio House see inter alia:

CHIPKIN, C.M. 1993. Johannesburg Style. Cape Town: David Philip. (See Part Seven: Chapter 14).