Sculpted Forms

15 Apr 2013

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Habitat - The Art of Living

Set on the Slopes of Lion's Head, this house has a powerful visible presence. Evocative organic shapes and rock formations dominate; the feeling of the mountain, the curves of the coastline were part of the inspiration for the eventual form of the house.

An existing structure was reworked to synthesise and harmonise what were already definitive elements. The property is compact at 840 square metres on a site measuring 664 square metres.


Yet, this original house - purchased by the current owner more than 20 years ago - did not have a direct link with the mountain and the opportunity to enjoy these special views, plus ease of access. This created a viable case for remodelling the entire entrance and it enabled the new penthouse level - and the rest of the living spaces - to open up to the mountain and its outstanding views.

The creation of a news entrance was one of the most significant aspects of the project. The lift connecting the floors, the triple parking garage and ramp, and a generously glazed double-volume entry space with spiral staircase have elevated the result to the spectacular.

The existing top floor was demolished and rebuilt with minimal structural impediment. High ceilings and sculptural curves draw the eye to the views but also to finishes manifested in inspired curvaceous swirls.

Says architect Jenny Mills, "We had to establish what this house wanted to be. The clients are based in Europe and enyoy an international lifestyle with Cape Town as on of their bases. Their starting point was the frustration experienced with the compact enclosed kitchen - always a cramped gathering point - and small master bedroom suite; both totally out of character and scale with the rest of the house."

"They were unsure about committing to a major renovation, needing to first establish the potential of the site and property. However, over three years this project evolved into a dramatic total redesign with premium specifications and a level of visual appeal that corresponds to the home's location. The logistics of the accommodation are now finely balanced and in synch with other high-end properties in Cape Town."

The architect's first suggestion was to open up certain walls to offer the kitchen views onto the ocean. Next, all the levels on the ground floor had to be resesigned in order to gel better with the news open-plan kitchen of which the redesign was so successful as a lifestyle solution that the whole project gained momentum. The brief was extended and refurbished progressed; with the lighting and key finishes in the living space.

Jenny Mills recalls: "The clients wanted clear, professional opinions on what they could achieve with this house. They realised the potential and pursued the solutions with vigour once they decided to proceed, so that by the end of each visit to Cape Town they had redefined, requested and agreed to further development. Subsequently, this was to culminate in a total redesign: the demolition of the original upper floor and the addition of two further levels.

The original access was via a very steep and difficult driveway to the basement level of the house. This meant the entrance was mostly via the garage and guests had a difficult time with the incline and in parking. The formal side entrance was hardly used and most guests entered the house via the garage.

The ambitious brief to gain access via the upper road level entailed complex approvals and major structural work. But the desirability of this access was clear, however it had various knock-on effects and resulted in a considerable rethink and subsequently the demolishing of the existing top floor due to structural constraints and compromises that had to be eliminated.

"We then added a further two levels to create a penthouse suite, additional triple garage and a triple parking space. A plus was the dramatic and imposing entrance that ties the house together and creates an inviting façade to the road while allowing in light and views of Lion's Head throughout the house."

Ms Mills' clients enjoy the beauty of the natural environment and wanted to feel as if their new entry garden extended into the landscape. With careful planning the existing shapes of the house were worked into a sculptural façade that exists in harmony with the natural environment.

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