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Bridge house: poised above Cape Town, this house exploits its dramatic sloping site.

Extending themes introduced in the earlier Tree House (AR November 1999), this latest dwelling by Van der Merwe Miszewski exploits the specific nature of Cape Town's steeply sloping bowl-like topography. Sloping down towards the north, the site takes in views of Table Mountain, Devil's Peak, Lion's Head and Signal Hill, an adjacent pine forest, the city's gridiron CBD and the Atlantic beyond.

Heavily occupied by large and mature specimens of exotic and indigenous trees, set among rocks and moss-covered boulders, the site has been planned in three distinct parts, on three levels; all of which are traversed by a dry river course called a donga. The uppermost element is the prominent bridge-form that gives the house its name and that contains entry and living spaces accessed via an elevated gangway to the southwest. Below this, set against an embedded retaining wall, are two floors of bedrooms and garaging; and along the lowest contour to the north, is a self-contained guesthouse that spans the pond. From the street, the white retaining wall creates a boundary between street and landscape, allowing architects to reinvent what they refer to as an ancient garden within a found valley. With all three structures placed at the perimeter of the site, a central space is created that provides a private external area, traditionally known in the Cape as a werf. In this, working with landscape architect Tarna Klitzner, the donga remains as a natural focus, with a pool and stream set within the dry riverbed, flowing across the site into the pond to the north that sits beneath the guesthouse.

In contrast to the massive masonry construction of the lower levels, the uppermost bridge element is formed by a lightweight steel structure, extending the architect's play between monolith and frame. Here the contrast has been used to maximum effect, to control views and to create distinct internal expressions. Upon entry from the street, visitors either turn left into the generous living area--an ideal space for exhibiting the client's furniture (they own Linteloo, a Dutch furniture company)--turn right to descend into the bedrooms below, or proceed straight ahead onto a spectacular roof terrace.

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Throughout the interiors, environment and views are controlled by timber-slatted screens that provide shade and soften an otherwise hard composition. Other softer moments exist, with subtle cranks in plan and gentle curves along the perimeter wall. All levels are linked by a dramatic triple-height stairwell that leads to an external dining terrace in the shadow of the bridge.

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COPYRIGHT 2007 EMAP Architecture
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Copyright 2007, Gale Group. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Gregory, Rob
Publication:The Architectural Review
Date:Jun 1, 2007
Words:439
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