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Philipskraal - Beach House
Betty's Bay, Western Cape

JANE VISSER and MARK THOMAS ARCHITECTS: Architect

Date:1996
Type:Beach House
Status:Extant
1997SAIA Award of Merit

See also VISSER ARCHITECTS.

Architectural interpretation

With the first structure – or iteration – built by Mark Thomas Architects (‘Boomslang’ renowned architect) in 1996 Philipskraal, or what is now known as Lemuria, underwent extensive changes to its body. Commissioned by a large family, this space had to consider the accommodation schedule required, the terrain and beautiful views of Betty’s Bay’s fynbos landscape, both opposing mountain and sea views as well as the element of being non-ostentatious in this sensitive setting with varying harsh conditions. The traditional building forms of the dwelling are delicately dropped around an internal courtyard, dividing more private spaces while creating more external views. Local materials such as stone, timber, latte and gravel are used meticulously to lightly place this building on the site and blurring the threshold between built mass and landscape. This project received a South African Institute of Architects Award of Merit in 1997. The second iteration to Philipskraal came in 2002, by Jane Visser Architects, and was awarded another SAIA Award of Merit. It became Lemuria in 2018, along with new owners.

The current black structure with faint glimpses of local earthy materials, convey a completely different message than the previous Philipskraal. A new abstract and contemporary structure sit uncomfortably in the landscape and excuses itself from the regionalist ideals in Betty’s Bay. Unfortunately, it has become yet another modern, colourful beach house, only perfect for weekend getaways. Looking back at Philipskraal, one can imagine themselves harvesting fresh flowers in the morning just before breakfast is served in the siesta-ideal courtyard, contrasting the ideas conveyed by Lemuria.

When speaking to Simon Birch at Jane Visser Architects about the location of the house, they expressed that the new renovation of Philipskraal came as a surprise to this celebrated project and its fathers.

(Nina Barnard, August 2021)

These notes were last edited on 2021 09 01