West Coast Holiday Cottage

WORDS Amelia Brown PHOTOS Aubrey Jonnson and Jeremy Woodward STYLING Retha Erichsen


Open City, a Cape Town-based practice specialising in architecture, urban design and research, designed this modern yet modest holiday home, built using recycled and sustainable materials. It artfully references the classic fisherman’s cottage and quintessential West Coast vernacular.

“The brief from the owners was for a retreat for their young family that would become a special place for celebrations and holidays,” explains architect Bettina Woodward. The house is located on the shores of Moerie-se-Baai, a small rocky inlet in the architecturally-controlled West Coast town of Jacobsbaai. “The site is surrounded by critically endangered Saldanha Granite strandveld,” says Bettina of the endangered “beach vegetation” endemic to the coastal areas around Cape Town. “The plot features 120 degree uninterrupted views of the coastline, but was heavily degraded due to its illegal use as a parking area for many years.”

Taking inspiration from the lime-washed thatched fisherman’s cottages found at Kassiesbaai fishing village near Arniston, Bettina designed a simple thatch-roofed home with symmetrical half-a-metre-thick white-washed walls and a small enclosed courtyard. To minimise its environmental impact, it has a footprint of just 100 m2. The cottage’s long north-west axis faces towards the bay, and comprises the double-volume living and kitchen area, which flow through double doors onto the stoep.

“Recycled and sustainable building materials were used throughout: The timber floor and ceiling were machined from recycled French oak shelves; the teak and oregon pine doors and windows are all reclaimed; and the roof beams and pergola were made from invasive hardwood (Eucalyptus cladocalyx) cleared from local kloofs,” says Bettina. As for the reestablishment of the site, the open areas are currently being rehabilitated with strandveld cuttings and seeds collected from the surrounding area, as well as topsoil and plants rescued prior to the clearing of neighbouring sites.

According to Bettina, “the design explores the dialogue between old and new, attempting to find a timeless expression of structure and materiality.” The interior is light, airy and minimalist with timber elements and original wooden furniture bringing warmth and authenticity. “Cupboards, shelves and internal door frames are hidden within the thickness of the wall, resulting in simple tranquil spaces,” she says. “Elements like built-in seats, staircase and window- and door chamfers provide opportunities for experimenting with sculptural form and light.”

To see more projects by Open City, visit opencity.co.za.