The Upper Albert House, designed by renowned architect Philip Olmesdahl, director of the SAOTA studio, is a masterpiece that redefines modern urban living in the heart of Cape Town. Located on a steep corner plot, which Philip had admired for over 15 years, it became the perfect location for his family as his children entered adolescence. Being his own client, Philip had the opportunity to push creative boundaries, blending his expertise in designing homes with SAOTA with a more playful and experimental touch. As he puts it, “when architects design their own homes, they can have a bit more fun; they can be a bit less intellectual.”

The plot, which originally housed a 1960s ranch-style house in the center of a large garden, was subdivided and reconfigured to accommodate a family home with five bedrooms on the upper level and two rental apartments with four bedrooms on the lower level. The goal was to create a single home that would enjoy the bustle and energy of the city while recreating the spirit of a secluded house in a wooded suburb, adapting to the ever-changing urban context.

The house’s facade stands out with its distinctive use of red-pigmented concrete, giving it a modern and bold appearance. The interior of the house is characterized by its open-plan design, seamlessly connecting the living room, kitchen, and dining areas, creating a harmonious and comfortable space for socializing.

SAOTA’s design philosophy, which combines contemporary aesthetics with natural textures, is beautifully incorporated into this residence, resulting in a modern masterpiece that is both progressive in terms of architecture and a joyful space to call home. The contrast between sharp lines, clean geometries, and tactile finishes is central to SAOTA’s approach—a concept that combines contemporary design with natural materials to create a progressive architectural space that is simultaneously comfortable and inviting.

Lighting plays a fundamental role in the experience of the living spaces. The clever use of natural light, filtered through architectural elements, creates a soft and welcoming atmosphere during the day.

The seamless fusion between indoor and outdoor spaces, separated only by floor-to-ceiling glass doors that disappear completely when opened, provides a tangible sense of belonging.

The garden surrounding the house is designed with “beautiful little pockets of space framed by landscaping.” Philip drew inspiration from the famous house of Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill, built in an old cement factory, which has always captivated him for its simplicity, generosity, and fluidity of spaces, as well as its integration of landscape into architecture. Philip’s house landscaping reflects this vision of harmonious coexistence between architectural and organic elements.

Polished polymer concrete floors, made with green stone aggregate from the ancient copper mines in the Namaqualand region, are extensively used in the living room, floors, stairs, and outdoor pavements. Rustenburg granite is used in paving areas, and local sandstone pavers surround the pool and outdoor dining area in some parts.

Solid stone also plays a prominent role in furniture pieces, such as the stunning four-piece table in the living room, a dresser in the master bedroom, and the sinks. Other finishes referencing the 1950s and 1960s include the wood panel wall in the yoga studio, the granite “James Box” bathroom feature, which is a memorable landmark in the house, and the kitchen cabinets with wood finish.


Project Name: Upper Albert Residence
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Project Year: 2021
Area: 942 m²
Designed by: SAOTA
Project Team: Riaz Ebrahim, Anthony Whittaker, Michelle Mills, Casey Hunter
Interior Designer: ARRCC – ARRCC
Project Team: Mark Rielly, Nina Sierra Rubia, Anna Katharina Schoenberger, Amy King
Structural Engineers: Moroff & Khune
Quantity Surveyor: Meyer Summersgill
Main Contractor: Red Sky Projects
Lighting Consultant: Martin Doller Design
Landscaping: Reto Mani Garden Services
Photographs: Adam Letch
Manufacturers: Alchemica, Calore, Coppola, Dix Aluminium, Helvar, OGGIE, PERI, SMA, VLVLK, WOMAG Granite

Similar Posts