FIRTH 114802 is a minimalist home created by three14 architects in South Africa. This home was designed for a young family in the Cape Town district of Rondebosch and lies on an extended plot with views towards Devil's Peak and The Back Table, which is the south-eastern side of the famed Table Mountain.
The resulting shape is a basic white box comprising the first-floor sleeping accommodation, floating over the ground-floor living rooms below. This box was articulated with strategic openings to maximize views and light exposure, and a central courtyard was cut out adjacent to the kitchen and dining area to provide a focal point. The floating box's bulk is broken down on the street façade by a dramatic screen wall that forms an open-air terrace for the house's guest wing. The screen provides street seclusion while allowing views and light to pass through and is made of ordinary pre-cast concrete breeze blocks reminiscent of a bygone period.
The ground floor's open plan living rooms flow out onto the courtyard and terrace to the north, with garden and mountain views to the west. A hand-selected tree was planted as a focal point in the courtyard to give a shaded garden area that floods the neighboring rooms with dappled light. The tree works as a natural screen against direct north light, and its canopy provides seclusion from neighbors on the first level.
The steel and timber stair links the two floors and leads to a huge open plan utility room on the first floor that divides the guest wing from the master suite while yet maintaining connections to the courtyard and tree below. Circulation areas were kept to a minimum, and all were designed with exterior views on axis.
A basic material palette prioritizes space, light, and volume above ornate finishes and complexity. The bottom level features a monolithic polished concrete floor surface that blurs the line between indoor and outdoor living and takes use of the South African environment. Upstairs, solid hardwood wooden planks and natural limestone tiles add warmth and character to the home's more intimate areas. Rough off-shutter concrete components were employed on the street border and the courtyard façade to add textural contrast to the white box.
This light-filled home, finished on schedule and on budget, successfully reflects the client requirement and is a thoughtful response to the site's climatic and contextual characteristics. The client's desire to pursue a daring conceptual design resulted in a powerful modern shape that is unique to Rondebosch. This style contrasts with the neighboring, conventional urban fabric and supports a new approach to residential construction in this region.
Photographs by Adam Letch.
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