- Land Surveyor: Ben Langbridge
- City: Cape Town
- Country: South Africa
Text description provided by the architects. The brief JMA was given was for a dramatically suspended pool penthouse – a glamorous urban apartment set on the slopes above Fresnaye - a ‘sky pool’ apartment. The previous house was built by the client 20 years ago. This house was basically rebuilt, the renovation was so extensive, and the roof was replaced with a double level pool penthouse accessed separately from the upper road. It is now a double dwelling with two units on the same property.
This house was an opportunity to make a building that has a strong presence as a sculpture and also a very strong connection to its environment and views. We used a reduced palette of concrete greys and white. This muted colour selection allows the play of light and shadows to be more visible. It is a dynamic composition of massive horizontal and vertical planes of concrete, glass and plastered surfaces. External light plays are exquisite, internal lighting in the evenings an enhancement beyond expectation.
From the upper road, one can look straight through the house with the horizon line of the sea virtually uninterrupted. The house has transparency. The glazed panel in the living room that frames the view of Lion’s Head has a similar one in the dressing room of the main bedroom. The landscape is consistently present. Great care was taken to favour the mountain view as much as that of the sea. We redesigned the staircase completely at an early stage to make it a smaller gesture (from the top-level) and in this careful reconfiguration achieved an unbroken view from the main living level of Lion’s Head.
We redesigned the staircase, again and again, to optimize the views from the library/wine space; eventually opting for a partial spiral to solve the tricky problem and gain the beautiful Lion’s head views. It also became an incredible staircase, built on-site by a master craftsman. For the client, this house is a sculpture that functions well and with intelligence. He talks about how incredible it is, how it feels - snug and warm, yet open and expansive, a house you can ‘wear’.
He talks about what a pleasure it is to sit and watch ships pass in the ocean far below, the sunset colours reflected on the sea, the way the soft, tranquil light of the morning reflects on the ceiling, the way the landscape views are held and framed by the structure. He remarks about the seasonal changes and the play of light and colour on the shapes and forms of the house. There may be many more reasons why the client loves the house so much. It’s a well-contained space that lives outwardly to its environment. Visitors have remarked about feeling as if they are in a cave high on the mountain, a simple looking shell that does a lot.