Sixty-one regional winners were entered into the Corobrik SAIA Architectural Awards. Six projects received Awards for Excellence, the highest distinction that SAIA can confer on a project in South Africa; Treehouse Paarman, Cape Town by Malan Vorster, was one of them.
There is a longstanding tradition in the architectural profession that when, architects and their clients, work in the context of the purity and beauty of nature, they strive to attain an equal level of perfection.
This ‘treehouse’ by Malan Vorster Architects, is a valuable addition of this local and international tradition. Not only is it an addition, it has all the characteristics of becoming one of the benchmarks of quality and inspiration with which contributions of others will be measured. Both the architect and the client were well aware of the terrains of architectural thinking and physical realization that they have entered into here. There is also a close correlation between the client’s desires for the project and the architect’s interpretation thereof. In such a situation it would also have been very easy to allow absolute indulgence to reign supreme. However, the complete opposite is true – both the architect and the client displayed total restraint. This understatement is thoughtful, measured and subtle -achieving a sense of poetry that is quite unique in local and international architectural discourse. The architects have taken their cues from some of the master architects who have, throughout time and space, created some of the most iconic and respected structures of this genre.
Like many architects before, Malan Vorster Architects also worked with pure geometric forms. These forms, namely the circle and the square, created the framework for the design – specifically as far as the plan is concerned. However, they have allowed themselves a wonderful freedom in the sections and elevations of the building. When physically viewed these are, by their very nature, the most dominant and memorable experiences of the building – belying the strict geometrical pattern of the plan. It is only the highly gifted and experienced architects who can achieve this wonderfully poetic contradictions and freedom of expression with such ease.
Like with so many of suchlike projects the building process was outside of the normal conventions of procurement. This largely handmade building was mostly painstakingly created over a relatively long time on the site itself, and for the same client that the architects have done work for before. However, when this previous work was done the professional permutation was somewhat different. This previous experience has obviously assisted the architects to find the most advantageous position as far as the site conditions and views are concerned. It should be noted at this point as well, that the building was placed at the ‘forest edge’, albeit a largely man-made one. As we all know, the forest edge is where mankind has achieved its most prominent and influential strides in terms of our development as human beings. When the building is physically experienced in its context by moving through it, it is as if the building as object and as an internal space disappears and only its profound relationship to its place on earth remains as the real memory of its physicality. The building, in terms of its structure and materials are experienced as fragile and ‘temporary’, while its relationship to place and its immediate context could be perceived as its only sense of permanence.
Whereas this unique building could have easily been an expression of personal indulgence, its overriding quality is of restraint and care. It is this expression of thoughtfulness and fragility in its idyllic context where it is making an important contribution to the local and international architectural traditions and precedent.
The Corobrik SAIA Architectural Awards were held concurrently with AZA18, Africa’s premier urban cultural festival focused on architecture.