JASON ERLANK ARCHITECTS: Architect
Award of Merit Citation
Topographically, from both the air and at eye level, the two most distinguishing features on the terrain where Port Elizabeth is situated might be the sweep of the bay and the Baakens River Valley. The coastline connects the city by creating a long public edge, only intercepted by the harbour and the occasional rivermouth. The beach area is mostly visually open and welcoming. In contrast, despite its scale and importance as a natural spatial element, the Baakens River Valley is quite 'hidden' and 'introverted' As a deep cut through the land, it is highly dramatic mainly due to the steepness of its edge. The view of the sea and this valley has created several of the most desirable places in which to live.
This house is situated on the southern edge of the valley. Building lines, the guidelines of the gated estate, the topography, as well as the necessity of creating protection from the wind, left very little room for manoeuvring. These site conditions and the need for privacy, while maximising the views, essentially determined the form of the building.
The estate regulations required a single-storey elevation from the street edge, while the client's requirements meant that the building had to have two levels. The solution was to excavate part of the site, which resulted in a relatively high retaining wall on the eastern boundary.
The more private elements of the brief, such as the bedrooms, were placed on the upper level, while the more public family living and entertaining functions were placed below.The accommodation was shaped into two elongated forms, at oblique angles to each other. These forms point towards each other, while creating a protective outside space for a long, thin swimming pool.
Entry into the building, from the street level onto the lower level, is elegantly handled.The spatial transition between the two levels could be described as a delight to users. This is because the interior is filled with light and views to the outside.The eye remains on the views, either towards the edge of the valley or towards the protected courtyard space, where the swimming pool is situated.
The relationship between the different functional areas is relaxed and can support an informal and elegant lifestyle, while the more private bedroom area on the upper level is spatially rather different. It is in fact more enclosed, with defined views towards the outside. Roof sheeting covers part of the elevation, to reinforce the idea of protection again.
Overall, House Scribante by Jason Erlank Architects is a delightful surprise. It does not reveal its pleasures to the few who pass along its suburban street, or to those who might view it by means of photographs and drawings. It only shares itself fully with those who live in it or who might visit by invitation.
Spatially, it enhances the visual enjoyment of its dramatic site on the edge of the Baakens River Valley, while enabling some protection from the volatile wind conditions. The light colours used and the relaxed spatial experience have resulted in a near 'weightless' building. It does not take itself too seriously, nor is it full of unnecessary gravitas and pretence.
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