Situated on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountains in Stellenbosch and nestled between rolling vineyards, a koppie (small granite hill) and a river below, Hillside is simultaneously arresting and juxtaposed as fits flawlessly into its surroundings.
You approach the house up a steep driveway meandering through the vineyards. The driveway and the forecourt are a modern interpretation of a traditional farmhouse. This is characterised overall by the planning of the house’s location but also more specifically by the gravel driveway, expansive forecourt, drive-in open garaging reminiscent of a barn and water feature evocative of an animal’s drinking trough. This modern drinking trough is then fed by a modernist architectural waterspout from the roof of the house.
These farmhouse characteristics are not just visual either. Other senses are also stimulated: your scent is stimulated by the smells of the farmlands and rural surrounding as is your auditory sense when you hear the gravel beneath the car’s tires.
There is a genuine sense of arrival every time you visit Hillside. Access to the front door is gained from a double-sided staircase from left or right of the gravel arrivals courtyard. This short stairway is a nod to the Colonial influence of traditional Cape vernacular typical to architecture seen in the Cape (many buildings in and around Cape Town like The Castle of Good Hope, the City Hall and Tokai Manor House, for example, boast this kind of double-sided arrival staircase).
Photography: Kate Del Fante Scott
Located beside a lake in the Wentworth-Nord municipality, the weekend house was designed by Alain Carle with a sprawling plan, dictated by both the awkward shape of the site and the surrounding views.
"The buildable area was somewhat narrow and irregular, which offered the opportunity to design a project outside the typical precepts of ‘stylish’ residences," explained Carle.
The architect created a series of walls that screen views of the nearby street and instead direct focus towards the nearby lake. This prompted the name of the residence, L’Écran, which translates as The Screen.
"The geometrical complexity was scrupulously validated," said Carle.
"This essentially involved blocking the relationship with the street while enhancing the view of the lake, both from inside the residence and from the street, by leaving sight lines to past places marking the trails taken by the log drivers along the lake."
The house has two storeys, both of which meet the ground at some point around the exterior. The upper floor is the main level, accommodating the majority of living areas and the master bedroom, while the lower level houses four extra bedrooms and a home cinema.
Recycled bricks were used to infill the walls of the timber and steel structure. Black paint coats all of these surfaces, matching the black window frames and giving a sense of uniformity to the exterior.
Photography: Adrien Williams