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Cape Town boasts new art pavilion

Jez Abbott
21 Mar 2019

A new design for an art pavilion maximises views inside and outside the dramatic building.

The design maximises views of mountain and vineyard landscapes and is set on the slopes of the Constantiaberg Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa.

Norval Foundation, an art trust, wanted a world-class art museum in an exceptional location, which provided a unique opportunity for architecture studio dhk.

The building is a pure expression of form; a bold rectangular mass, delineating its heavy-walled enclosure topped with a light over-sailing roof.

Constrained by a linear site between a road and a wetland, a linear circulation spine along the edge leads on to galleries and public spaces framing views of the wetland, vineyards and mountains.

The building sits in an elevated position and shields the wetland, creating a private space for the sculpture garden and forming an inhabited threshold between public and private zones.

A triple-volume atrium establishes a deliberate visual connection between these zones; one urban, the other natural, and provides a physical transition between these contrasting environments.

A curved wall to the entrance court draws visitors past a double-volume restaurant, gallery shop and into the generous reception that directs guests to the central atrium and the main galleries.

A terrace along the length of the building incorporates a timber restaurant deck and connects to walkways leading to a sculpture garden, amphitheatre, children’s playground and picnic area.

The galleries culminate in a dramatic triple-volume sculpture gallery, a dramatic setting for large-scale pieces with Table Mountain as a backdrop.

All the galleries are column free, allowing maximum flexibility for display of all forms of art and they can be treated as separate experiences or a sequential journey as required.

The materials palette is raw and honest, comprising primarily precast concrete, natural timber, granite and glass, contrasting the natural landscape.

Clerestory windows allow the roof to float above the heavy walls, like the lid of a box concealing treasures within and allowing soft indirect natural light to penetrate the interior spaces.

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