Contemporary Tree House Inspired by Timber Cabins in Cape Town

Contemporary Tree House Inspired by Timber Cabins in Cape Town

Architects: Malan Vorster Architecture Interior Design
Project: Paarman Contemporary Tree House
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Photography: Adam Letch

The architects have been involved with previous projects on this tree-rich property, and were commissioned to design a small contemporary tree house to compliment the existing collection of buildings – spatially organised around a modern interpretation of the Cape Werf.

Contemporary Tree House Inspired by Timber Cabins in Cape Town 1

Inspired by the trees on the estate, the client requested a cabin-like, one bedroomed hide-away resembling a tree house. The structure is located in a small clearing amongst forest-like gardens, and respond similarly to the verticality of the surrounding trees in order to maximise views from the highest portion of the site.

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Inspiration was drawn from the timber cabins of Horace Gifford and Kengo Kuma’s notions of working with the void or in-between space, while Louis Kahn’s mastery of pure form and the detailing ethic of Carlo Scarpa informed a process of geometric restraint and handcrafted manufacturing.

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The organisational diagramme of the structure explores the pure geometry of a square, with each side divided into three modules and where two of these modules determine the diameter of a circle on each of the four sides of the square – resulting in a pin-wheel plan layout.

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A square is directional and a circle not – the square relates to the North/South site geometry and the four circles to the organic and natural surroundings. Each circle’s centre is the location for a column, and circular rings, supporting the floor beams above, are connected to the columns by means of branch-like arms. Each ring circumscribes a half-round space ancillary to the main square living space on that level.

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The building becomes a vertically arranged “clearing in the forest”, with living space on level one, a bedroom on level two and a roof deck on the third. A plant room is located at ground level below the building. The half round bays accommodate a patio, dining alcove and stair on the living level, a bathroom on the bedroom level and a built-in seat on the roof deck level – the pure geometries provide articulation to the spaces. The building lightly touches the ground, and entry is by means of a suspended timber and Corten steel ramp.

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The columns, arms and rings are constructed from laser-cut and folded Corten steel plate, and each column is divided into four ‘trunks’ in the interest of transparency, slenderness and to allow floor beams and windows to pass through the centre points of the rings. The steel trees support timber floors beams, facade glazing and a western red cedar building envelope. The connections between steel and timber are expressed by means of hand-turned brass components. All materials are left untreated, and will express the passing of time as they weather naturally with the surrounding trees.

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