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Voëlklip House
Hermanus, Western Cape

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STEFAN ANTONI OLMESDAHL TRUEN ARCHITECTS: Architect

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Date:2009
Type:Homestead
Status:Extant
Street:10th Street

Project Description

The brief called for a beach house suitable for a family of four, on a vacant site in Voelklip, Hermanus, Western Cape, RSA. The site is a long thin rectangular subdivision stretching from the sun facing street and mountain side to the undulating tree tops of the milkwoods and fynbos and the coastline on the South.

The gently sloping site presented the opportunity for a split-level living space allowing lounge, dining to be placed above the bedrooms on the ground level, all enjoying dramatic sea views. The double volume family room and kitchen form the heart of the home and form the connection between the sea facing accommodation and the internal sunny terraces, pool and garden. The main garden courtyard functions as a large wind free and sunny outdoor entertainment environment.

Materials were selected to enhance the beach-house character of the building while at the same time adding touches of sophisticated detail: white cement screed floors to the public circulation areas; lime washed oak floors to the lounge, dining area and lower-ground floor bedrooms; off shutter concrete ceilings; and external timber decks and pergolas, cladding, screens and shutters providing security, privacy and protection.

Award for Architecture citation

SAOTA's Voëlklip beach house is finely crafted and spatially skilful. The double sided aspect, allowing views to both the mountain and the sea, is confidently handled with a split level creating abundant transparency and revealing multiple views. The formal living room is stacked on top of the bedrooms, with the less formal living room at the split landing. The formal living room enjoys views both to the mountain and to the sea, allowing the bedrooms - with views to the ocean - generous access and glimpses onto the swimming pool.

Every square millimetre of the relatively small subdivided site is optimised by the L-shaped courtyard house. Agile spatial interlocking gives the informal living room views to the mountain across the pool, with the kitchen as veranda having good aspect onto the pool and braai area. The guest suite feels private, yet connected to the main house allowing for unobtrusive independent use or engagement with the main house.

In spite of the narrowness of the site, neighbours' site lines are respected and carefully negotiated. The flat concrete roofs allow for generously high ceilings while remaining within height restrictions. The use of materials and detailing is astute if slightly predictable.

A heat pump is used for heating and cooling. All environmental service components are housed in a large section of the basement. The judges were greatly concerned that staff accommodation, also located in the basement, was poorly designed indeed.

SAOTA's Voëlklip House represents an exciting solution where the architect demonstrated skill and experience at handling a difficult site and is recognised for this fine achievement.

(PrArch - The Cape Institute for Architecture. Vol 13 October 2011)

Award for Excellence Citation

This house is an architectural marvel. The simple yet complex design ingenuity applied on this holiday home, has resulted in nothing short of an architectural masterpiece. Upon arrival, the street edge leaves visitors with an impression that this building is a standard typical modernist structure. Once one enters the gate, visitors are greeted by a magnificently proportioned intimate court with a modest entrance path that sensually and systematically unveils public spaces along the path's right hand side, with a complementing long slim pool along the left hand side.

The aforementioned path terminates into a series of split levels of living, dining and lounging areas all flanked by the ocean on the western horizon and views of the mountains to the east. To ensure that the mountain-scape on the east is optimally visible to the split levelled entertainment and recreational spaces, the flat roof of the building is cascaded into wide-framed portraits of the mountain peaks and ridges. In contrast, the ocean view to this public realm is a constant permanent still frame of water and seasonal sunsets to delight Inhabitants year in and out.

To say this house takes braaiing and laundering to another level is to risk being cliche on the mundane. Braaiing is exquisitely, casually formalised to the point of making this very informal activity require the commensurate dress code to appropriately fit the occasion. This level of etiquette is achieved by the quality of well-chosen, mutually complementing materials selected to finish the floor, walls and ceiling. The braai nook is positioned in a partially enclosed outdoor area, strategically flowing into the kitchen and breakfast nook, given the synergising layout and proximity of these food-related areas.

Similar to the braai nook, the activity of doing something as basic as laundry is transformed into a spatially adventurous and poetic experience, by the quality of the finishes and the intriguing volumes which lead to the laundry area in the quasi-basement. The floor treatment leading to the laundry room serves to evoke a sense of the outdoors, and this is enhanced by the dynamic ceiling-scape above.

This building befits the idiom 'god is in the detail' by the assemblage sensitivity and crisp clarity of construction that is carried through in the entire structure. How the materials of the building fit into each other communicates the focused attention the designers applied to the selection and construction of materials. Upon departure visitors are left with the emotions experienced by an audience when leaving a theatre, after having intrinsically absorbed an unforgettable symphony.

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.

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