‘Tree house’ triumph opens new doors

Top Bay architects honoured at national awards

The ‘tree house’ designed by DMV Architecture overlooks the Baakens Valley
The ‘tree house’ designed by DMV Architecture overlooks the Baakens Valley
Image: Sarah Rawstron

A captivating, habitable “tree house” is among four award-winning architectural designs in Nelson Mandela Bay which have been recognised nationally for striking concepts and accomplished restoration.

The architects behind them were honoured at the Corobrik South African Institute of Architects Architectural Awards held in Pretoria earlier this month.

Built on a firm foundation but creating a tree-house effect, Whitfield House, which overlooks the Baakens Valley in Walmer, won one of six commendation awards.

Director architects Dal Venables and Neal Fisher, of DMV Architecture, who designed the noteworthy structure, said their aim was always excellence and being recognised for their work was a good measure of their ability.

“As an architect it is great to be recognised for putting that together in a way that is appreciated in the architectural community,” Venables said.

“And it is a nice gift to the client that the work that we put in for their project paid off.

“This recognition for a young practice is very rewarding.

“While we are appreciative of the award, it is something we accept in a humble manner,” Venables said.

Their clients, John and Fiona Whitfield, gave them an open brief to design the house, which they wanted to be elevated in nature, in and among the trees, he said.

The lightweight elements used for the structure also encompassed the use of a suspended structure as the house is built on a sloping site.

Dal Venables, left, and Neal Fisher
Dal Venables, left, and Neal Fisher
Image: Werner Hills

Fisher said: “Although the house is not physically connected to a tree, it is 8m off the ground and gives you the feeling that you are in the sky, especially with one of the trees coming onto the front porch.

“Getting this recognition is hard work paying off. As architects we are passionate about the work we do and we work very hard – so getting any recognition whatsoever is the best feeling. It is a pat on the back and it motivates [us] for the next one.”

The Grassroof, Boomtown, Bridge Street Brewery and Moffett Business Centre premises are among some of their projects completed in the Bay.

The Campanile restoration, the Opera House extension and Aspen Pharmacare are other buildings to have won awards.

The Matrix Urban Designers and Architects won two awards, for their restoration on The Campanile and the extension of the Opera House in John Kani Road, Central.

Director architect Albrecht Herholdt said the firm was extremely proud and excited to have been recognised for its work on the historical buildings.

“It is the first time ever that we have won two awards in the same year and that is such a wonderful acknowledgement by our peers, because these are judged by the top architects in the country and getting two out of 29 awards is quite an achievement for The Matrix,” Herholdt said.

“We have clients who come to us for the quality of our work and in all the projects that we do, we strive to produce award-worthy work.

“We tried to make The Campanile attractive and appealing to everyone in the city [as with] the Opera House, and we are very proud of our work.”

Walmer-based architecture agency Thembela Architects designed the Aspen Phamacare building that won the SAIA Merit Award this year.

Director Gavin Schönknecht said: “It is a tremendous achievement that the East Cape Institute of Architects is constantly recognised for producing excellence in architecture.”

Other projects of theirs include the Newton Park Swimming Pool, the Cradock police station and the Eastern Cape parliamentary legislature chambers.