Apartments Clifton Terrasses / SAOTA
Photographs: Adam Letch, Niel Vosloo
Manufacturers: Made, OKHA, Oggie Floor
Text description provided by the architects. The Clifton Terraces Apartments on Victoria Road, Cape Town, designed by SAOTA, make a striking architectural statement but sensitively integrated into the region’s distinctive clifftop setting. The development veers off the street into a series of stepped hinged terraces that follow the natural contours of the site, offering panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and local landmarks such as Table Mountain and the sheltered Clifton Beach Series.
Clifton Terraces is home to ten apartments, including four side-by-side simplex levels, plus a duplex level above them and a pair of five-level penthouses set back behind private gardens. The parking is arranged on three levels: a basement, one at street level and one above. The reception area features a large-scale site-specific artwork by leading artist Marcus Neustetter, which imparts a unique sense of place and adds a layer of creative engagement with the development setting.
A central spine of greenery divides the multi-level levels vertically, allowing each side of the building to pivot independently of each other as the levels recede, creating a dynamic architectural expression of the building’s form. The site, which occupies an elevated position on Lion’s Head, combines three adjacent properties, two facing the street and a landlocked site behind. Its position was considered sensitive because of the grain of its natural and architectural context, the scenic drive along Victoria Road and, perhaps most importantly, the consideration for the views and privacy of neighboring properties. Behind the site is a protected green belt of public space just below the scenic drive along Kloof Road, with views that it was imperative to preserve.
SAOTA actively engaged with the city and the building’s neighbors, analyzing the impact of the development on the outlook for each of their properties and ensuring that their side views of the building’s facade would not be affected. In most cases, SAOTA has succeeded in improving them. The sloping terraces and articulated form of the building originate from these considerations, ultimately transforming multiple constraints into the basis of an authentic and highly motivated design solution.
The base of the building contributes to the public domain. From a pedestrian perspective to street level, the proportions of the building have been carefully integrated into the existing streetscape, harmonizing with the scale of the adjacent buildings. The sandstone finish of the plinth is a nod to the natural color and texture of the decaying granite boulder that protrudes from the basement onto the sidewalk, preserving the historic and geological character of the Scenic Artery. (The fact that the rock was decomposing meant that significant feats of engineering were needed to preserve it.)
At residential levels, the recessed layers of the stacked facade are deliberately unassuming even though they create a distinctive and visually pleasing architectural identity for development, ultimately making a positive architectural contribution to the public realm. The pivoting faces of the terraces and the deep overhangs create protected outdoor living spaces for each apartment with spectacular views. At the same time, the frosted glass side walls have been angled to maximize the ocean view and preserve the privacy of residents and neighbors.
The refined details of the facade, contrasting crisp white horizontal lines with dark blade-shaped pergolas (which in turn complement the dark bands of the fenestration), fragment the mass of the building while providing moments of interest in a holistic aesthetic. The understated natural palette of materials blends into the beautiful natural surroundings while the terraces planted on each level soften the edges of the building and blend into the natural surroundings, as does the tree-lined “backbone” along the vertical length of the development. . The development retained 25 existing trees on the site and added 101 large trees (over 3,000 small plants and shrubs).
Generous landscaped strips of native greenery on either side of the property soften its relationship to the public thoroughfares on either side, such as the Biskop Steps, a popular training route for joggers and walkers.