wolff architects blends mountain house with south african landscape
photo by heinrich wolff
all images courtesy of wolff architects

 

 

 

in south africa, cape town-based practice wolff architects has constructed a residential property deep in the cederberg mountains. in consultation with botanists, a clearing was found within the region’s protected vegetation before the structure was oriented in relation to specific viewpoints and natural delineating boundaries.

wolff architects house in the mountains cederberg south africa designboom
the structure was oriented in relation to specific viewpoints and natural delineating boundaries
photo by heinrich wolff

 

 

 

as the area is prone to periodical bush fires and troops of destructive baboons, the house is both flame-proof and monkey-proof. however, as heinrich wolff explains, the biggest challenge for the architects was dealing with the scale of the project: with no marks of human life on site, it became very difficult to judge the scale of landscape features. to make matters worse, conventional land surveying produces contour plans that describe the topography only with no ability to describe the plethora of rocks and bush. to design the building we had to develop a way to see the vegetation, rocks and topography simultaneously.

 

the solution was to have the environment analyzed with a 3D scanner, meaning that the landscape indicated on the section and elevation drawings is the exact site.

wolff architects house in the mountains cederberg south africa designboom
to protect the house from the country’s extreme elements, the building was sited next to a large rocky cliff
photos by james puttick

 

 

 

to protect the house from the country’s extreme elements, (cold winters, very hot summers and constant winds), the building was sited next to a large rocky cliff. a overhang on the northern side of the dwelling provides protection from the summer sun, while all rooms have shutters on the inside of the windows to insulate openings.

wolff architects house in the mountains cederberg south africa designboom
the interior of the mountain retreat
photo by heinrich wolff

 

 

 

operating off-grid, the house has no connection to any outside services; electricity is generated through solar power and stored in batteries for all year round use, water is supplied from a borehole, and sewerage is contained on site to protect the vegetation from nutrient rich effluent.

wolff architects house in the mountains cederberg south africa designboom
showers inside the two-storey home
photo by heinrich wolff

 

 

 

to minimize the visual impact of the house, the program is split into three separate blocks containing bedrooms, bathrooms and the kitchen. the living and dining room is conceived of as an enclosed ‘courtyard’ between the volumes, with the fragmentation of the building mass mimicking the natural landscape. to further minimize the visual impact, the property is constructed from fairface cement brick, a material which is identical in color to the rocks around it.

wolff architects house in the mountains cederberg south africa designboom
the property is constructed from fairface cement brick, a material which is identical in color to the rocks around it
photo by james puttick

 

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