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Floating Dune House
Sedgefield, Western Cape

SLEE and COMPANY (PTY) LTD ARCHITECTS: Architect
Cillié MALAN: Project Architect

Date:c2017
Type:Homestead
Status:Extant
2017CIfA Award for Architecture
2018SAIA Award of Merit
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Award of Merit Citation

When the landmass on earth is considered, the realisation follows naturally that the edge between the land and the sea is precious and delicate. For this reason, it needs constant human care and attention. Humankind cannot be reckless about this special zone of nature. Yet, sadly, the opposite is mostly true.

On this site in the justifiably famous Garden Route on the southern coast of the Western Cape Province, the responsibility to act wisely becomes even more pronounced. The area is a 'Garden of Eden' of sorts. This bucolic landscape draws people naturally. Getting close to the sea to live, even temporarily, is a prized goal for many. No expense is spared to be there, and once there, no expense is spared to give expression to the accomplishment. It is only in rare moments of personal clarity that the decision is made to give meaning to this privilege in a subtle and understated manner. This is what the 'Floating Dunes House' accomplishes so well.

The site of the 'Floating Dune House' is on the crest of the first dune between the sea and the land. From this site, there are nearly endless views to the ocean in the south and to the mountain range in the north. It is also here that the coastal weather is experienced more acutely.

The architects placed the house right on the crest of the dune. The quality of 'weightlessness' has been achieved by the architects by placing the building on a base to create this illusion of it floating. The external view of lightness is countered by the internal experience of the building that evokes a 'heaviness' in the way that it envelopes and shelters its inhabitants. Engineered wood covers most of the interior space, creating the memory of a log cabin in a forest. This idea fits the context with its heavily forested areas very well. Thus, the building actively protects the inhabitants in this landscape in times of inclement weather while it also allows them to open up the building to enjoy the landscape all around and to come into contact with the natural environment close by. In other words — the building enables the users to truly dwell in this landscape. The architects were also extremely careful in the manner in which they restored the plants on the site after the building was finally completed.

The strength of the singular external form and the restraint of all the detailing ensures the memorability and quality of the building. These qualities of the building also set a good example of restraint in a context of wealth and the common desire to express that privilege with architectural extravagances.


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 38, 39 ill