Back To The Future
Is this retro-futurist cliffhanger Cape Town’s most stupendous house?
One of the greatest virtues in life is to be brave, ambitious and have a clear vision. The same is true of building great homes. and that certainly was the philosophy behind the extraordinary Pengilly house residence, which landed on the hill behind Clifton beach in Cape Town, seemingly from another dimension.
The house is the culmination of the enthusiasm of Lloyd Pengilly and his son hanno for south africa and its natural beauty, but also reflects hanno’s passion for mid-century architecture and design.
The Pengillys had always had an apartment on the beach at Clifton but when a large parcel of land around nettleton road opened up, they had the opportunity to acquire several adjacent stands along a unique kink in the cliff – a wind-protected spot of remarkable stillness. They ended up with three plots and then ‘to do it justice had to do something exceptional’. They also wanted to create something at once timeless and futuristic and so gravitated to the idea of a future vision rooted in the past.
That vision was encapsulated by the work of John Lautner, who worked up and down the west coast of america, principally during the seventies. John in turn was inspired by a postwar american optimism about the future and the googie movement with sweeping arches and hard angles, which inspired midcentury modern construction in Palm springs and The Jetsons, amongst others. John created expansive, lateral concrete homes, often perched on clifftops with amazing views. The resulting sleek futuristic cinematographic settings lent themselves to being the backdrop for many movies, including Bond films. The most famous of these recently was the home of Iron Man, which is a computer generated mix of John’s arango, Beyer and elrod residences. and when you visit this
house you really do feel like you have entered the world of Tony stark mixed with James Bond.
having decided on the general theme, Peerutin architects was appointed and the next two years were consumed with design work to refine the John Lautner vision in a manner sympathetic with the natural surroundings. For instance, the house needed to be split into two wings due to large existing rock formations and the
270 degree views needed to be maximised. The mandate was also to sink the house into the mountain and make it less visible from the road below, which it largely is.
The result is a tour de force, a dazzling mix of various John influences sitting above two floors cladded in battered rock, which disappear into the natural cliff. These lower levels contain a vast garage with a turnstile, an indoor pool and an office, but it’s really above these levels that the house reveals its true nature, with two disc-shaped entertainment spaces replete with raked glass windows – shapes which recall 1950s drawings of ufos. These appear to hang in space above the rest of the house, separated by an elegantly landscaped lawn. These disks, with their shuttered concrete roofs and exterior water features, echo the lines of John’s Casa arango in acapulco.
one of John’s aims was to bring the outside in and not to have barriers to nature. This is achieved here by having exterior living areas integrated with the
interior. one of the disks doesn’t have windows but is open to the elements. Perhaps most importantly, in the outside areas balustrades have been replaced with moats and plantings so that you have a rare sense of openness allowing an unfettered closeness to the ocean.
Beyond the architecture, huge consideration has been given to the finishes and furnishings. ‘given the concrete shell, we wanted it to be warm, local and easy to live in,’ says hanno. The concrete itself retains marks from the shuttering and has an organic natural feel. To further achieve this vision, the owners also devised a language of five materials – smoky glass, copper, Brazilian rosewood, white terrazzo and flamed Kalahari sandstone – that pervade each space, along with the primeval elements of light, water and earth. The team behind the finishes – silvio rech and Lesley carstens – also created an almost cubist language that populated the spaces. ‘These take the angularity of the natural rocks on the site and contrast it with the circularity of the discs,’ hanno explains. a house like this cannot take clutter nor should it be a seventies museum. There is a well curated mix of futuristic Warren Platner chairs combined with less recognizable works that keeps the eye firmly on the architecture, setting and view.
Pengilly House is managed by Brian Futter of Camps Bay Hideaways campsbayhideaways.co.za
‘given the concrete shell, we wanted it to be warm, local and easy to live in’
the Sunken pool bar, overlooking the main moated outdoor Swimming pool, helps Segregate the Space from the rest of the house
The master bedroom, with ceiling oculus, copper headboard and bespoke cubist sidetables, presides over uninterrupted views of The atlantic ocean right off-shutter concrete used in The master bathroom’s shower invites The outside in whilst providing...