MOUNTAIN RETREAT, CAPE TOWN Stuart Thompson Architects | STARC

Site and Brief:-
The house is situated in a very special part of Cape Town on the Urban edge and on the slopes of Table Mountain. From here the “City bowl” drops away to the North with views over Cape Town and Table Bay. The original house was designed as a solidly built three storey concrete frame set into the hillside, so it had good bones. The Clients brief was to modernise the house, opening it up to the mountain and the city, and to soften the scale of the house on its approach up the steep driveway. The house needed major reconfiguring on each level to create a whole new program for the active family of five.

Design response:-
The first round of designs focused on rearranging the entrance sequence, opening up the central areas of the house and dropping the roofs-cape. It included the addition of a new guest bedroom on the mountain side and a new garage building at the lower level, the roof of which would double in function to form a new North balcony terrace to the main house. Budget constraints lead a revised design to omit the new garage, instead cantilevering the new balcony off the existing, and to keep but alter the existing roof. A new projected eaves canopy was added as a wraparound element to form a new dominant leading edge, lowering the impact of the old roof behind.

MOUNTAIN RETREAT, CAPE TOWN Stuart Thompson Architects | STARC

Structure & Spaces:-
At ground floor level the new entrance hall is placed central, flanked by the existing garages and the refurbished basement flat, which is screened for privacy. The new entrance sequence runs through the house led by the south light and rises into the double volume reception. At this level, the internal spaces were opened-up significantly to connect the reception with the kitchen, lounge and dining areas. Structural walls were removed, and new beam elements were concealed in ceiling bulkheads which also contain service plenums for lighting, HVAC and the reconfiguration of new services. The ramshackle outbuildings on the garden level were combined to form the kid’s playroom space which opens down its length onto the pool terrace.

On the upper level the secure upstairs bedrooms are centred around a new pyjama lounge which is connected to the main living areas below via the new south facing double volume space. The old staircase that connects these levels was stripped and refurbished, and the new double volume space provided a unique opportunity to open up the house to South light and the majestic views of Table Mountain. Where possible the steel structure was left exposed and in combination with new wood floors, wood cladding and the original stone fireplace – reintroduced a mid-century modern aesthetic favoured by the client and architect. Dedicated walls for special artworks were highlighted, an important consideration for the clients as gallery owners.

MOUNTAIN RETREAT, CAPE TOWN Stuart Thompson Architects | STARC

Environmental response:-
The balconies, pergolas, terrace and main roof canopy, wood sunscreens and lush new garden planter at the study sliders – all work in layers with improved orientation, added insulation and performance glazing to passively warm and cool the house. A continuous gutter line on the new roof canopy improves the harvesting of rainwater to storage tanks in the garden for irrigation. Together with groundwater and a full house filtration system, the house can run off the grid. The large north facing roof slope also provided the ideal opportunity to integrate a grid tied solar PV system. These investments together with the integration of well-considered passive heating and cooling solutions, increases the resilience of the whole house as a system; now an essential aspect of every project as we transform these older structures for the next generation.

Opened up within and on both sides, the house can now ”live through” from the City terrace on the hot North side to the pool terrace and mountainside garden on the south, taking full advantage of its unique setting and  working to connect the city with the mountain.

Stuart Thompson, Architect

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