Karbonkelberg House

Name Karbonkelberg House
Client Simon Fanshawe
Location Hout Bay, Cape Town
Status Unbuilt, 2009

This small house, of approximately 155 square meters, is situated on a corner site which forms an intersection of three roads in Harbor Heights, Hangberg, Hout Bay.

The difficult geometry of the site and the need to access it from the bottom, which was a requirement of the city Traffic Department, led to the unusual site organization. The house is split into three levels – a living/dining level, an entrance parking level and a bedroom wing. From the parking level one either moves up to the living space or down to the bedroom wing.

The two wings are placed on the site to maximize view and site use – the parking area acts, in geometric terms, as a mediator between the different alignments of the two wings. The living wing is treated as a vaulted space which opens onto a timber deck above the parking area. This space makes reference to Sir John Soane’s Museum in London which the architect admires greatly. Within the vault a layered set of horizontal concrete planes is employed – the holes that are cut out of the concrete are rounded and the concrete slabs themselves are very thin to give the effect of membranes stretched over the living space. Light is introduced into this space from two cuts in the vault above.

The view of the house as one moves either up or down the adjoining road is of a house of two parts which have rounded ends which takes one’s gaze or view beyond the line of the house – in this way it is hoped to reduce the visual impact of the house and to make the house and its component parts sit more comfortably on the site. This restless play of geometry and form reflects a great regard that the architect has in the work of the wonderful Baroque architect, Francesco Borromini.

Programmatically the two parts occupy the site in different ways. The living wing opens to the view and a large timber deck – the view is remarkable and looks across Hout Bay to Chapman’s Peak. The bedroom occupies the site in a very different way, it is buried at the bottom of the site and opens onto a north-east facing private garden which will be densely planted and will provide a retreat from the outside world – two different ways of using the site are offered up to whoever lives there.

The house is made from bagged brickwork which includes the vaulted living room roof. All concrete is left as it comes out of the timber shutters and will also be bagged – the entire house is painted white.