Tuynhuys is a futuristic new block of 47 new apartments in the heart of Cape Town's old city legal district - directly opposite the Cape High Court. Set in a stoic row of Victorian and Cape Dutch commercial buildings, this playful and exuberant (but never irreverent) new residential building proves that innovative modern high-rises are indeed possible (and even desirable) in the most sensitive of historic locations.
The architectural ambition was to craft something futuristic and fanciful, but still responsive and respectful to the contextual environment. Whilst the anthropomorphic new tower respects its neighbors, it is no shrinking violet and its joyful muscular curves aim to be at least as beautiful as the properties that surround it. These stated ambitions could only be achieved through a magic relationship between a progressive, intelligent and sensitive developer and its architect - a merger of commercial imperative and creative aspiration. The design is witty, optimistic, sculptural, and containing the DNA of all its neighbors - but stopping short of aping the historic environment.
The 47 compact apartments range from 24m² studios to 80m² 2-bedroomed penthouses spanning eleven storeys on a site no more than 460m² in extent and enjoying only thirteen linear meters of street frontage. Whilst not exactly a “view site”, the fenestration is surgically micro-managed to extract mountain and cityscape views from angles that would not be immediately obvious. Apartments without views are handsomely compensated with curved glass or lozenge-shaped windows, which frame even the most mundane aspect as if it were a precious piece of abstract minimalism.
Since completion, Tuynhuys has captured the public imagination, having been documented by the city's top photographers, lauded in the design media, and even drawn and painted by artists and illustrators from around the country. The building has been solidly occupied and well-held since completion (and is recovering remarkably post-lockdown) as tenants favor cleaner, brighter, modern accommodation.
For new developments to be successful in a more competitive, post-Covid environment, the architecture needs to be more generous and distinguish itself with quality differentiating features. If architecture could inspire loyalty, Tuynhuys has favorably endured its first major test.