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Court House
Cape Town, Western Cape

VAN DER MERWE MISZEWSKI ARCHITECTS: Architect

Date:2006
Type:Homestead
Status:Extant
2011CIfA Award for Architecture
Street:3 Orange Road

Also called Courtyard House.

Award citation

The house at 3 Orange Road is a new residence designed for the architect's family.

Located in the leafy southern suburbs of Newlands this project represents the considered remaking of a new dwelling on an existing site. The demolition of an old stand-alone suburban house has afforded opportunity for the reconfiguration of the site. This has been achieved by the inversion of the previous centralised figure-ground to establish a central voided garden plane around which the new building and formal landscaping have been organised.

An L-shape plan is contained at the edge of the site, opening up the building to the sun and views of the mountain. The outer perimeter of the house is solid, whilst the north opens toward the garden. All openings are full height and width and screened by purpose made lattice woven screens. These serve to animate the regularity of the facades, and reveal patterns of itinerant use that occur within the dwelling.

The planning invokes a number of spatial turns that heightens our experience of space. The entry sequence to the first level recollects le Corbusier's use of the architectural promenade, where movement is both generator and organiser of space. Here the reciprocal relations between route and void have cleverly articulated the various public and private domains, thereby enhancing both pleasure and use.

Attention to detail is manifest in multiple spatial resolutions to accommodate domestic rituals. In a rare display of modesty, everyday life has been privileged in contradistinction to the overworking of material culture so often evident in high budget residential projects, most notably here at the Cape. A simple palette complements the intricacy of planning, providing us with a clear reminder of what it means to be measured and responsibly responsive.

The House on Orange is recognised as exemplary of an appropriate response to the design of an upper end dwelling in a time of exceptional excess. Its modesty and clarity of purpose establish a worthy benchmark for emulation in the Cape.

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

Architect's notes

Court House is situated in the southern suburbs of Cape Town: the plot being relatively conventional at 30m x 30m, flat with a clean north aspect, surrounded by neighbourhood trees and a magnificent view of the 'back of Table Mountain'. A thick 'Ficus Hedge', some 4m tall was retained and screens the house from the street.

The brief required a home for a family; three bedrooms, guest bedroom (to double as flat with separate entry), kitchen, lounge, dining, study (alternatively a second lounge), garden store, double garage, pool and a garden with a lawn for kids and dogs.

In planning, an 'L' shaped footprint was employed in order to maximise the balance between occupied and open space, the North aspect and the views of the mountain. The structure has been positioned as close to the back and adjacent boundaries as is permissible (ie; 3 metres). This space has been utilised for the entry to the house and other functions such as yard and herb garden.

The form of the building is rectilinear, constructed of load bearing brickwork, concrete slabs and 'flat' sheet metal roofing concealed behind parapets. The North facades are fully glazed from floor to ceiling whilst the ‘back’ facades are solid, made of fair face painted brickwork with punctured openings. The glazed facades are screened by top hung timber stained shutters with 'woven' louver blades to create shade as well as a soft dappled light effect on the internal surfaces.

The bedrooms are situated at first floor, leading onto external terraces, which also provide horizontal screening, and shading to the glass facades as well as fixing for the top-hung shutters.

The entrance from the street leads down a narrow landscaped entry courtyard to the front door situated at the 'centre' of the 'L' shaped footprint. The entry hallway is located at the focal point of the plan and the site and leads directly on to the open garden space.

The palette of the house is neutral, allowing for furniture, joinery, rugs, artworks, and book shelves to form the interior.

See also the architect's website.

These notes were last edited on 2022 06 21

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.