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House Burnett Prinsloo
Cape Town, Western Cape


2017CIfA Award for Architecture
2018SAIA Award of Merit

Award of Merit Citation

The thoughtful care that has been taken to get House Burnett Prinsloo built is evident in every aspect of this building. It appears in every detail and in all instances where it might be used or experienced. Despite this intensity of thought and the professional knowledge and experience that has been lavished on this house, it is calm and serene creating a sense of permanence — as if it has always been there, and is also the result of years of accumulated effort that has now been reduced to a point where nothing can be added or subtracted — it is at a point of rest.

The site on the banks of the Liesbeek River, not far from the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, is simply idyllic. It is heavily forested all the way down to the river bed. The footprint of the house was the only area left to build after the trees and the mandated building lines applicable to the site were considered. The bulk of the building was divided into two pavilions connected only by a fully glazed passageway. This link is placed precisely on an old footpath that used to be on the site. This element is now the main entry into the house, while it also remains a path that leads eventually to a carefully designed sitting area on the banks of the river. Towards the street, the house appears solid and closed with only essential openings while the northern facade is, in contrast, almost totally glazed. On the southern side, there are no visible security barriers between the house and the street. This approach to the house is treated as a minimalist urban space where the entry into the house is also announced in an equally understated manner. Visually and physically the house protects its occupants from the street and it directs their attention and interaction to the abundance of nature on the banks of the river. This beautiful and healing garden is the main focus of the building as all the main spaces visually and physically interact with it.

This house is an exemplary study in spatial efficiency. Every bit of space is designed for optimal use. Materials are carefully chosen and used for their inherent characteristics. The building is clearly a labour of intense logic, craftsmanship and love by a devoted owner, a highly talented and deeply knowledgeable architect and a group of skilled craftspeople who are justifiably proud of their work.

Much can be said about House Burnett Prinsloo designed by the architect, Robert de Jager, and much has already been said. However, above all, it leaves a deep and positive impression on everybody who experiences it, and it will continue to do so in time. It will also, without any doubt, find its place in the history of architecture in South Africa.

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 32, 33 ill