The Gota Dam Residence in Zimbabwe by Sforza Seilern Architects


[dropcap size=big]S[/dropcap]forza Seilern Architects, an artistic collaboration between Studio Seilern Architects and Muzia Sforza, completed their first African project:  a house on a rock.  The 1500 sqm building is situated atop a granite rock overlooking a large man-made dam, or reservoir for the extensive surrounding farmland. The area is, to say the least, breathtaking and awe-inspiring, and deserved a piece of architecture that is equally awe-inspiring.

Drawings courtesy Archdaily

The views and the drama of the granite cliff plunging into the dam were the inspiration for the concept, where oversized cantilevered roofs and extensive terraces frame the views and shelter from the vertical African sun.

The house consists of three basic elements

  • Two granite blocks, enclosing bedrooms and support spaces, anchor the building into the rock, and become part of the surrounding topography.
  • An oversized timber platform and a cantilevering roof frame the exterior spaces and the panoramic views. These are designed to focus the eye to the horizon, while creating shaded exterior spaces for living and dining areas.
  • Finally two glass boxes span between the deck and roof, and the natural granite topography. These enclose the winter living areas at the upper level and the master bedroom suite at the lower level. They are transparent enclosures that again emphasise the views and the feeling of living within the surrounding landscape. A small horizon pool at the lower level visually integrates the dam reservoir with the lower levels of the house.

All elements are orientated in such a manner as to create physical adjacencies and visual privacy where required. The cantilevers roofs and stretched terraces give the house the appearance of being gently floating above the rock.  The roofs protect the floor-to-ceiling glass from direct sun radiation.

The project had to deal with issues of hyper-inflation and lack of available material. All materials were sourced locally, except for specialist items such as the glass and the roof waterproofing. The granite used to clad the two anchor blocks were the ‘crusts’ cut-off that came from the granite excavation. The dynamite drill holes are still apparent and tie the building to the area of excavation. Using the granite from the site also insured that the building blended harmoniously with its surroundings.

Inspired by the rich local culture of basket weaving, a garage cover was devised using different sized rebars and weaved to form a sun-shading canopy over cars. This canoly is supported by simple I-beams on one side and anchored to a large existing bioulder on the other side.  Climbing flowering creepers are envisioned to cover the whole canopy, softening greening the steel weave. The owner being a musician required a place to retire and compose/record her music.  Again taking inspiration in the natural granite cliff overhanging the house, we decided to hand a granite cube in the middle of the dense green jungle at the base of the cliff.  Strategically placed windows, creating corners and band cuts into the granite cube offer dramatic views of the cliff and the jungle below.

Here are some construction images via Bruce Rowland Architects.


  • Architects: Studio Seilern ArchitectMuzia Sforza
  • Location: Zimbabwe
  • Local Architect: Bruce Rowland Architects
  • Area: 1500.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2012
  • Photographs: Angela Geddes, Bruce Rowlands
  • Structural Engineer: Eckersley O’Callaghan Local Structural Engineer: Marcussen and Cocksedge
  • Services Engineer: DSA Engineers Ltd
  • Local Services Engineer: Lage Consultants
  • Lighting Consultant: BDP Lighting
  • Quantity Surveyor: Matrix Quantity Surveyors
  • Contractor: Elevate
  • Budget: £1.2m

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