view from garden looking south towards table mountain

view from garage entry looking north towards the first pavilion

internal view in the main pavilion looking south towards table mountain

concept sketches

entrance level plan


entrance level plan

lower level plan

north elevation

The importance of the landscape and its influence on design came from the teaching of seminal Australian architects, Glen Murcutt, Rick Leplastrier and Peter Stutchbury. Other strong architectural influences came from Roeloff Uytenbogaardt and Jo Noero.

The convergence of a dramatic site and an exceptional client, in the wake of spirited teaching by the Australians, gave birth to an exciting design opportunity. The brief was to design a small house on the slopes of Table Mountain. The beautifully wooded site has a small stream running through it. The client, recently widowed, wanted a house flexible enough to accommodate her new lifestyle. She travels and is visited by her children and grandchildren who live in different parts of the world.

The aim of the design was to achieve a building which respects and celebrates a difficult site. Two small pavilions perched delicately on piers linked by a bridge, offer a responsible solution to the steeply sloping wooded site. There are four rooms for living, working and sleeping. The two pavilions connected by a bridge allow the stream and the natural topography of the site to flow freely below. Each pavilion is on two floors to reduce the size of the footprint of the buildings on the site. The unprotected walkways between the pavilions heighten the sense of dwelling in nature. The intensely natural setting is only five minutes away from the Cape Town CBD.

The main axis of the proposal is perpendicular to the road, its narrowest aspect on Higgo Road. Only one story of the east pavilion is visible from the road. Cars and living spaces are separated. One walks, experiencing the site to get to the house. From neighbouring vantage points view corridors are respected. The strong vertical piers together with the specific selection of materials cause the building to merge with the strong trunks of mature oaks and poplars on site. Materials are concrete, timber, glass and steel.

Like stone piers of old railway bridges, the concrete piers give a sense of permanence and resilience. Around these piers the timber walls wrap like woven weavers nests around the branches of a tree. The ordered spatial grid set up by the piers gives a regular geometry, which is offset against the natural. The regular geometry gives coherence, clarity and intensity to the design. Animated roof forms feather and soften the transition between built fabric and vegetation. The mono pitched roofs direct views up to Table Mountain to the south and down into the trees to the north.

Couched in the formative teaching of the Australians, the idea of the suspended platforms and parasols culminate in dramatic sky rooms. Each room has two aspects. To the south solid walls and alcove spaces that give refuge leading onto open timber decks that have sweeping views. Their fronts and sides are protected by slatted timber screens that easily slide away, leaving all three sides exposed to the trees and the lush forest floor.

The bridge makes the entire site accessible by linking the east and west banks. In the creek the natural topography is left untouched. Landscaping includes stone terraces and paths which give access to shaded and secluded corners of the garden. Crossing the bridge to reach secluded parts of the garden or pausing on the platforms of the sky rooms, one makes a mental transition from the head to the soles of the feet.

The proposal represents a very responsible approach to restraint development on this beautifully wooded site on the slopes of Table Mountain.