Life among the trees

2016-10-19 12:38

A treehouse for South African cooking royalty has just sprouted in the Constantia winelands.

Garreth van Niekerk speaks to the architects of this bold new tower.

The luxurious Paarman family estate – the Cape Town base of domestic goddess Ina Paarman of cooking sauces and spices fame – is growing into an ever more architecturally ambitious project.

Resting in the hills of the Constantia winelands, the latest addition to the series of interconnected buildings – commissioned by Paarman’s son Graham – takes the form of a three-storey timber-clad tree house in a woodland corner of their sprawling property.

The structure, architect Pieter Malan told #Trending this week, was “kind of like a square Sudoku block,” divided up into nine smaller square blocks.

But from the outside, the glass, cedar wood, oak and corten steel structure looks rounded and curvilinear.

“We quite liked that you couldn’t work out how the building worked from the outside – it kept the spaces hidden and a little more mysterious,” Malan says.

“To achieve that, we extended half-moons out from the square blocks to become spaces like the bathroom, the dining room and double-volume spaces. These all ‘sprout’ upward from the staircase, a central square around which the spaces radiate.”

The three, nearly four, floors are supported by what the architects call “manmade trees”, with a lounge on one level, a bedroom above that and the roof deck above that.

The architects chose to preserve the honesty of the building’s structural designs by exposing the beams and rafters, which are made of wood and steel.
Oak becomes the central focus of the interior of the building, with American cedar cladding the outside.

The use of wood throughout the building, along with the light from the slatted facade and views across the surrounding landscape, creates a sense of being up among the leaves.

“I think the fascination for treehouses comes from this childhood yearning for escape.

“As an adult, it’s this magical space where you can get away from your nine-to-five job and life,” Malan says.

“For me and the other directors of Malan Vorster – Jan-Heyn Vorster and Peter Urry – we got this amazing opportunity to create a floating house above Mother Earth, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with an amazing client who allowed us to do whatever we wanted.

"The client said that the first time he woke up there, he felt [he was] in something great and magical, and that’s what we were hoping for.”

For more work by Malan Vorster, go to

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