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New Residence on 151 Main Road
Constantia, Western Cape


2017CIfA Award for Architecture
2018SAIA Award of Merit
2018SAIA Award for Excellence


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34°01'08.24" S 18°25'05.51" E Alt: 125m

Award for Excellence Citation

There is a longstanding tradition in the architectural profession that when architects and their clients work in the context of the purity and beauty of nature they strive to attain an equal level of perfection.

This 'treehouse' by Malan Vorster Architecture Interior Design is a valuable addition to this local and international tradition and it has all the characteristics of becoming one of the benchmarks of quality and inspiration against which contributions of others will be measured. Both the architect and the client were well aware of the terrains of architectural thinking and physical realisation they have entered into here. There is also a close correlation between the client's desires for the project and the architect's interpretation thereof. It would have been very easy to allow absolute indulgence to reign supreme. However, the complete opposite is true — both the architect and the client displayed total restraint. This understatement is thoughtful, measured and subtle — achieving a sense of poetry that is quite unique in local and international architectural discourse. The architects have taken their cues from some of the master architects who have created some of the most iconic and respected structures of this genre.

Like many architects before, Malan Vorster Architecture Interior Design also worked with pure geometric forms. These forms, namely the circle and the square, created the framework for the design — specifically as far as the plan is concerned. However, they allowed themselves a wonderful freedom in the sections and elevations of the building. When physically viewed these are, by their very nature, the most dominant and memorable experiences of the building — belying the strict geometrical pattern of the plan. Only highly gifted and experienced architects can achieve this poetic contradiction and freedom of expression with such ease.

As with so many similar projects, the building process was outside of the normal conventions of procurement. This largely handmade building was mostly painstakingly created over a relatively long time on the site itself, and for the same client for whom the architects have done work before. However, when this previous work was done, the professional permutation was somewhat different. This previous experience obviously assisted the architects to find the most advantageous position as far as the site conditions and views are concerned. The building was placed at the 'forest edge', albeit a largely manmade one. The forest edge is where mankind has achieved its most prominent and influential strides in human development. When the building is physically experienced in its context by moving through it, it is as if the building as an object and an internal space disappears and only its profound relationship to its place on earth remains as the real memory of its physicality. The building in terms of its structure and materials is experienced as fragile and 'temporary', while its relationship to place and its immediate context could be perceived as its only sense of permanence.

Whereas this unique building could easily have been an expression of personal indulgence, its overriding quality is of restraint and care. This expression of thoughtfulness and fragility is set in an idyllic context where it is making an important contribution to the local and international architectural traditions and precedent.

See article by Asa Gordon on CIfA website, 11 October 2017

These notes were last edited on 2020 06 15

Writings about this entry

South African Institute of Architects. 2018. Awards : South African Institute of Architects. Awards for Excellence, Awards of Merit, Regional Awards for Architecture 2017/2018. Cape Town: Picasso for SAIA. pg 8, 9 ill, 135