Red Concrete Screens Wrap Around SAOTA’s Upper Albert Family Home in Cape Town

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Philip Olmesdahl, the principal architect at SAOTA, has completed his family home in Cape Town, South Africa. Olmesdahl had been living near the site for over 15 years before finally securing it for himself. Being his own client gave him the opportunity to experiment and push boundaries in the design. The site was steep and had an unremarkable 60s ranch-style house in a large garden. Olmesdahl saw potential in the densification strategy of the City of Cape Town and decided to subdivide the property. He created a five-bedroom family home on the upper section and two four-bedroom rental apartments on the lower section.

The main Upper Albert house was designed to reference the row houses in the area. The house was extended to create a podium on the lower two levels, which included garages, a gym, guest and staff accommodation, and utility rooms. The upper two levels were dedicated to the living space, which offered spectacular views of the city. The house was clad in red-pigmented off-shutter concrete, inspired by a trip to Mexico, and featured terracotta breezeblocks repurposed from the old boundary wall. The interiors of the house were characterized by open-plan spaces that seamlessly blended indoor and outdoor areas. Floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors created a seamless transition between the two.

The materials used in the interior finishes were carefully selected to engage with the living heritage of the area. The polished polymer concrete floor, for example, used a green stone aggregate from historic copper mines in the Western Cape. Solid stone, such as Paarl granite, was used in furniture pieces. Heritage finishes, such as hessian walls and a timber lattice ceiling design, added richness and continuity between inside and out. The overall design of the house proposed a creative solution to the shifting urban context of the city while making a striking addition to the suburban landscape.

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