Houthuis Tafelberg
Slee&Co Architects - South Africa
Drawings, plans, elevations
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WABI SABI For 10 years our clients have been living on the property in an existing “apartment block type” house on columns. This did not reflect their living characteristics. Our brief was to create spaces which soaks up the vast views, captures the serenity of the mountain forest, and to bring them in close contact with the “earth”. We were guided by the cross pollination between Western Modernism and Japanese Modernist influences as requested by the client. The challenge was a site with twenty-five meters fall, 60-degree slope and a small wooded stream, filled with Table Mountain granite boulders, tall stone pines and wild fig trees, a unique forest floor character and all exposed to nature’s elements in its fullest glory. The house had to be carved out of the Table Mountain granite. This rock we recycled extensively throughout the project. Black timber boxes fool the scale of this avant-garde residence amidst the existing monumental fig and stone pine trees. These timber clad boxes are created by applying an ancient Japanese art of burning timber, referred to as “Shou-sugi-ban”. A forgotten stipple plaster technique. (Terraline – borrowed from the historic Table Mountain cable car station visible from the kitchen) cuts perpendicularly through the timber boxes and creates a perfect and subtle contrast. The house spreads over five levels, each accommodating their business and social requirements when necessary. From entering the house, a ramp and stairway twists and turns and purposefully forces one to be in awe with each interior and exterior view. A central plantroom functions as the heart of the building harnessing alternative energy and generating warm water with a pellet stove, providing for large water tank storage, air conditioning condensers and related electrical and electronic equipment. At the very lowest level a gym room with sauna and shower flows onto a secluded deck giving access to a circular cocktail pool and the lower garden. The first level breaths the light and soul into the house with a private main bedroom suite and the open living / dining opening up onto a north terrace overlooking the harbour. The kitchen is tucked into the forest between Table Mountain granite boulders, large trees and a reconstructed endemic garden. The media room forms part of a mezzanine study and double volume opening up towards the forest and winelands views. Level two, similarly with levels three and four, could each function as a separate apartment with vast views framing the interiors. Large timber decks expand outward and creates additional overflow areas towards the various views. This challenging construction sensitively cuts into the mountain side. One never fully grasps the house in its entirety and is left to explore the magic thereof.
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