Matt Pretorius Architecture design
The Cranked House
Project completed in 2017
The Cranked house is located on the steep mountainside in St James, Cape Town, overlooking False Bay from Hangklip to Cape Point. The site is cradled in a ravine of natural beauty, with steep slopes dropping down to the mesmerizing open ocean views of False Bay. With mild contouring wind conditions and Fynbos filtered sunlight, there is a unique sense of calm to the site.
The existing two-storey structure was positioned directly in the middle of the site and orientated off the site axis towards the views of Simons Town and Kalk Bay Harbours. The clients brief was to add an additional upper level to the existing structure to function as a new living area. A reconfigure of what were the old living spaces below into the new bedroom level and for the existing ground floor to be remodeled into the staff and guest flats.
We wanted to achieve a building that interacted with the natural context, allowing the views to open up and the light to move through the spaces on all three levels. The courtyard concept allows light to penetrate deep into all three levels of the building, and holds the central stair core while the building anchors its flanks into the steep contours of the mountain. It is here that the crank is most visible internally; where the upper level has been swung radically back onto the site axis to pull back the new upper level structure to respect the views of the neighbours. The glass facade of the central courtyard atrium is screened with fixed hardwood louvers providing privacy from Boyes Drive and shading for the double volume glazing in summer.
The upper living level of the building is seen as a contemporary open pavilion with large glass panels which slide away into the walls. The south east orientation of this level brings morning light into the main space and the wind-protected large and open balcony enjoys cool evening seaside views across the bay. In contrast the generous north courtyard is visually screened from the neighboring houses and has a sunny secure feeling with discreet lap pool and braai.
The ground floor flats, set into the site are held by the existing stone plinth forming a balcony with views across the bay. North light from the courtyard reaches them via the cranked stair atrium. At the next level the family bedrooms, with improved views, can open up into the sunken courtyard to bring north light onto their landing and circulate fresh air through the house. On the upper level the house lives from the pool on the north side through the living areas out to the seaside horizon. Gardens landscaped with indigenous and water-wise planting sit above and below the house with the mountain and sea beyond – making for a unique living experience. The main palette of finishes are all natural; raw timber louver screens, off-shutter and polished concrete and site-quarried handcut stone are all left in their raw state, to allow for a building that ages naturally over time within its context.