Trees are precious in Africa. They provide shelter for the elders at meeting time, for school children in the midday heat, for all to shield against the unrelenting elements. In a sense the tree has become iconic, almost mythical.
A commission to design a house on the slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town created an opportunity to test our concerns and searches for contextual responsiveness and connectivity. The site, adjacent to a valley and stream, has a canopy of magnificent spreading umbrella pines.
These trees, majestic and sculptural, provided the primary reference and ultimately the structural concept for the house. Five tree-like structures anchor the roof to the ground and provide shelter for the functions gathered under. These trees are surrounded by an entirely separate lightweight transparent steel and glass enclosure supported on a heavily rusticated stone base.
The design of the house incorporates themes of narrative, of layering and of expressed threshold. The visitor is invited to take part in a journey of discovery, requested to participate in the unlocking of experiences within the house, the unpeeling of layers.
We tried to heighten the experience of unveiling and of delicate exposure, to create within the house sensuality and moments of intense intimacy - a folly immersed in, and closely linked with, the majestic beauty of the African landscape - a simultaneous dialogue between inside and outside and outside and inside, neither taking precedent over the other.