With a gorgeous setting in the heathlands of South Africa, home to one of the world’s most delicate ecosystems, this complex of vacation cabins had to be low-impact on the land while making the most of the views. KLG Architects created a series of pine cabins connected by a floating boardwalk that protects the sensitive vegetation of the “fynbos,” a belt of natural scrubland in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape provinces.
Fynbos is full of endemic plant and animal species, meaning they’re found nowhere else on Earth. One area called Table Mountain has more species of plants than the entire British Isles. With a Mediterranean climate, many colorful flowers and steep, dramatic mountains, it’s a truly special place. The architects wanted to highlight the beauty of these surroundings with lots of glass, and materials that augment nature instead of contrasting with it.
“Pine was chosen as the most suitable building material because it is lightweight, readily available, and will fade to grey and blend into the natural landscape over time. The timber construction methodology allows the cabins to “float” over the fynbos. The foundations are restricted to small concrete pad foundations, which limits the impact on the ground, and the environment. The raised cabins allow ground water, the local fauna, insects and snakes uninterrupted routes under the cabins.”
“The units are designed to respond to the area’s weather and climate. Careful consideration of orientation allows scenic views and wind protection. High specification insulation panels in the walls, roof and floor keep the units cool in summer and warm in winter. Timber slatted sun screens on the pergolas control the summer sun over the decks. Large gabion walls which house the built-in braai’s also provide cooling through thermal massing. Carefully chosen indigenous endemic grasses are planted on the roof in roof trays that allow for easy maintenance. The mass of the soil improves the thermal qualities of the roof.”
The cabins were placed in areas where they’d have the lowest possible impact on the ground, and off-grid technology like dry composting toilets and purified river water eliminates the need for utilities. The effect of the complex is modern, but in a way that’s drawn from South African architectural history, and the pine will help them fit seamlessly into the environment as they age.