Cape Town has a number of buildings, both commercial and residential, that are beautifully designed. Below is three of my favourites.
Weaver’s Nest (2005)
As one turns a corner in Higgovale, one is presented at eye-level with two large wings flying among the trees. Upon closer inspection reveals them to be detached, monopitched roofs that covers twin towers connected by a bridge straddling a gorge.
This home addresses the difficulty of the damp soil by not meeting it, following Glen Murcutt’s dictum of touching the earth lightly (learn more about this concept here). The towers are raised three storeys above ground: the living areas level with the crest of the trees, the sleeping areas a floor below.
Each tower is a bridge of reinforced concrete and suspended between sheer concrete walls, with a stream flowing underneath. A steel structure of I-beams and slanted columns is attached to the south-facing front and fitted with timber slats that hides the balconies. A beautiful design in my eyes.
House Langham (2007)
Michele Sandilands Architects
Located in a fisherman’s village where the Breede River mouths into the Indian Ocean, House Langham compelled an appropriate response to site, client brief and regional characteristics. The design was informed by the morphology of the Cape coast.
In this case, the high visibility of the site, a lack of privacy (especially the when fisherman launch their boats) and strong offshore winds were taken into consideration. The design was resolved as two shed-like buildings: the upper barn incorporating an existing garage; the lower one stepped down the site with a protected courtyard in between, though raised on a masonry podium to achieve a measure of privacy.
A wrap-around veranda articulates its sea-front and street-face, supplemented with sliding timber louvers for additional privacy and protection from prevailing winds. Views from the courtyard were also considered and this was achieved by carefully positioned openings. The harvesting of rainwater was another important factor incorporated into the design.
Wine Tasting Centre Vergelegen (2008)
MLH Architects & Planners (Paul Truscott and Belinda Young)
One of South Africa’s top wine estates, the 311-year-old Vergelegen in Somerset West, is underwent a facelift of its hospitality assets as a long-term investment in positioning the estate.
Vergelegen is a treasure trove of wine, gardens, culture and history. Rambling over 3 000 ha between the Helderberg and Hottentots Holland mountains in Somerset West, it was first developed by Governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel in 1700. Subsequent Vergelegen owners included Sir Lionel Phillips and his wife Florence, who supported the arts, and business magnate, outstanding sportsman and keen conservationist Charles ‘Punch’ Barlow.
The beautiful homestead and library (a converted wine cellar built in 1816) are furnished with meticulously restored antiques. They are set among magnificent gardens stretching over 10 ha, in a cultural heritage area spanning 60 ha.
The latest improvements includes a new wine tasting centre, a new bistro-style restaurant and the revamping of the existing Vergelegen Restaurant into a premier culinary destination. The appearance and structure become somewhat dated, and the original concept had limited relevance to the current competitive position. A whole new design of the Wine Tasting Centre was urgently needed.
The bistro restaurant area was originally a horse stables and was adapted to house the gift shop, wine tasting centre and an interpretive centre. It is now being developed into an informal bistro-style restaurant that will maximise its views of the Hottentots Holland mountains.
The estate has now developed a reputation for service excellence and has received several awards from wine and tourism bodies. As an architect, I think these alterations and additions were done extremely well.