Walk along Kloof Road in Clifton, Cape Town, and you’ll notice one house where the joggers, dog walkers and strollers tend to slow, stop and gather for a chat. ‘Clifton doesn’t have the typical suburban setup where people just drive. There’s a lot of foot traffic and people use the sidewalks,’ says architect Jan-Heyn Vorster of this seaside neighbourhood. Vorster and his life partner Pieter Bruwer built the abode specifically with the hope that it would be friendlier to the street than the blank, overpowering mansions typical of the Atlantic Seaboard. We chat to Vorster and Pieter Malan of Malan Vorster architecture firm about the build.
What was your favourite thing about building this home?
It was very rewarding to see how all of the individual components came together in the end, especially the joinery items, which were carefully designed and manufactured to integrate seamlessly with the architectural envelope. Various highly skilled craftspeople were part of the project, and their input and expertise were instrumental in the success of the project.
And the most challenging aspect?
Designing a building with little tolerance for error – the extensive use of board-marked, off-shutter concrete proved to be especially challenging and time consuming. All those involved in the project had to ensure that services and cast-in fittings were placed and co-ordinated correctly – first time round!
Why were you so focused on ensuring the building would be ‘friendlier to the street’?
As architects and designers in our practice, we believe we have a certain responsibility to ensure that each building we design not only serves its occupants but also contributes to and enhances the context within which it is placed. To consider the social and natural environment of a building is not only a duty, but will also enrich the design and user’s experience of an architectural work.
What’s the number-one tip you can give potential builders in Clifton?
Consider climatic issues carefully. Western sun exposure can be pretty harsh and uncomfortable.
And what’s the best advice you’ve ever received when it comes to architecture?
That patience is a virtue. Good design takes time and the execution of it should be deserving of a building that will last for many years.
What is your favourite thing about the home?
The way in which the building integrates with the site and garden – we have managed to ‘hide’ a lot of the bulk of the building by allowing for plenty of landscaping opportunity.
What is your favourite room, and why?
The double-volume atrium space that connects the various rooms. The scale of the space and the views outward are magic.
What piece of architecture has impressed you recently?
A lovely terraced home in Cape Town’s historic De Waterkant suburb by L&L Architects – it’s at 146 Waterkant Street.
Which architect most inspires you?
Japanese Architect Kengo Kuma – especially the hierarchies of scale and the sensitivity with which each building is conceived.