A tour round the house takes on new meaning

Time of article published May 17, 2001

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By Nazlia Peer

An overseas couple living in a sunseeker's paradise on a hilltop in Somerset West in the Western Cape have made the most of their dream position - they can turn their home towards the sun or change their view at the click of remote control button.

The top floor of the revolving mansion, named Galilei after the 17th-century Italian scientist Galileo Galilei, can be set in motion to take advantage of the sweeping vistas across False Bay.

But the panoramic views do not come cheaply - the customised computerised system enabling the 800-ton house to rotate costs a hefty R2,8-million.

The project took four years of preparation, two years of construction and an estimated R7-million to complete.

Architect Raymond Alexander and engineer Michael Franzen, the builder of the rotation machinery, showed the Cape Times around the house, the first in South Africa to rotate 360 degrees.

Before the rotation can begin, the drawbridge connecting the double-storey house with the road is disconnected and the elevator positioned at ground level.

The rotation is made possible by a complex drive mechanism with electric motor, gearboxes and spring arrangements centred on a thrust bearing.

Another advantage is that the front entrance can be turned to face the garden, leaving no access for would-be intruders.

But it is not easy to make an emergency escape from the revolving Galilei as the lift is immobilised during rotation and the house does not have a staircase.

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