The spectacular glass beach house in Rooi-Els, once owned by disgraced African Bank former-CEO Leon Kirkinis, is back on the market.

It is currently owned by a German developer, who wants R135 million for the property.

Built on a 10 469 m² plot, the 684 m² house is right on the beach and offers expansive views of False Bay. It comprises four en-suite bedrooms, a pool, and a library.

In August 2016 the house was on auction with an opening bid of R20 million. The highest bid on the day was R30 million, but Kirkinis declined the offer. At the time, the auctioneer said the property had been on the market for R70 million for two years.

Property records, however, show that it was bought by a German developer for R20 million in 2017. He made some changes to the house, detailed in Habitat magazine last year.

The developer’s South African architect said that although he “appreciated many aspects of the original home, there were some aspects that he was not comfortable with. These included a lack of privacy, safety and adequate ventilation”. He added that the original glass sliding doors did not seal correctly, allowing wind and sand to constantly blow through the interior; and that it had overly sophisticated technology that was complex to use, prone to failure and required constant maintenance – particularly the computer-controlled hydraulic lift shutters.

The changes that were made included creating a wind-sheltered courtyard and moving the front entrance door, as well as adding glazed windows and new shutters and doors.  

The central living area is the core of the house. There is access on both sides – on one side to the courtyard and on the other to the pool and deck. The external ceiling is cedar. Garapa was used for the external hardwood decking.

The brief to the architect and designers was to adapt the existing house to create a calm, secure and easy-to-manage retreat, which would provide a comfortable lifestyle for a family or couple. High-quality workmanship and low maintenance were priorities. Considering the location and dramatic weather conditions on this coastline, the aim was to refurbish the property so that it would not require constant maintenance while withstanding the elements. Further, it should function in such a way that would make it accessible and convenient for anyone to use and enjoy, according to Habitat.

As stated by architect Jenny Mills: “The original house was a starkly exposed glass box and the client’s aim has been to transform it into a tranquil, private home. It needed to feel ‘grounded’ in order to induce the warm, earthy feel he required.

“In approaching this brief, the external envelope of the house was the first issue to resolve. The original perimeter’s external shutters, which were designed to be lifted and lowered through a home-automation system, have since been permanently fixed – in either the open or closed position. In the bedrooms, they are in the down position to make these areas secure and private. In contrast, the shutters outside the living areas are now permanently open.”

Glazing has been reconfigured or replaced so they are either permanently closed or have been replaced with the latest version of frameless stacking doors, which seal correctly. The 10mm- to 15mm-thick safety glass, in a combination of fixed and sliding/folding door systems, has been installed throughout. Slim-line windows were added for ventilation and to help moderate humidity.

Further, the front entrance door – previously facing into the wind – has been moved to the newly-created wind-sheltered courtyard. The surrounding environment and neighbourhood are deemed very safe. Adjacent properties in the area have no fences and are open to the street.

There are three bedrooms on the main living level. The master suite, which is at one end of the house, is separated from the rest of the bedrooms by the kitchen, living area and entrance.

The living area/kitchen opens to the entry courtyard on one side that features a striking, custom-painted mural, and to the pool deck and the expanse of the ocean on the other. There are spectacular views of the mountains from every part of the home. A study with timber panelling, reclaimed from the floor of an old 1720 farmhouse, adjoins another of the bedrooms.

 

Acquire Africa property agents marketed the house on its website in May 2014 as a holiday home. “The home is a combination of a luxury lifestyle in the heart of nature,” said the advertisement at the time. It pointed out that the home was built to the highest standards and level of ecological sensitivity, and was constructed to have a minimum impact on the surrounding environment.

However, when construction started, residents in the area were said to be opposed to it. The house, which took four years to build, went on to claim an award in the residential category in the 2013 Steel Awards for its structural steel construction.

One of the judges, Heather Dodd, representing the South African Institute of Architects, said: “This is a project that just exudes excellence, something we have come to expect from the work of the professional team involved.”

Describing the house, she said: “It is designed as a long, thin glass box with a timber deck wrapping around its exterior. Internally, the box is divided by bathroom pods and sliding doors which separate the living spaces from the bedroom areas.”

Residents of the town were extremely upset when, in 2010, construction started on what they called a monstrosity. A resident said that, at that time, Kirkinis had been everyone’s hero but that quickly changed once construction on the house started.

“Initially the erf was zoned for the construction of a hotel – the one thing the Rooi-Els residents didn’t want. Next, Kirkinis bought the plot and he had it rezoned to a residential property. He was everyone’s hero.”

Events quieted for quite a while until Kirkinis started a process of public participation and everyone was invited to inspect the plans. He also instructed that a comprehensive environmental impact study be undertaken, which would have cost a pretty penny.

“The next thing we knew, building started after new plans had been submitted and approved. Suddenly this ‘architectural miracle’ started rising up above the sand dunes,” said the resident.

Another Rooi-Els resident added: “It’s the first thing you see when you drive from Gordon’s Bay to the area. It looks like either an airport building or a sports stadium”.

The property is marketed by Engel & Völckers and only pre-qualified purchasers will be permitted to view it in person.

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