160 Buitengracht Street: Alterations and Additions to a Heritage Building

160 Buitengracht Street: Alterations and Additions to a Heritage Building


Parkview Property Development CC

Start Year


End Year



Cape Town


project by Design Studio Cape Town CC

The Project Challenge

The existing building is a mid 19th century double storey packed stone structure built as a lean-to to an older building on the Buitengracht service lane. As with many buildings of the Bo-Kaap, the building contributes to townscapes and has considerable age value. The structure is very simple and has been altered over its lifetime to suit various roles of warehouse, home and workshop, which has compromised its authentic material value. A departure point for the redevelopment was to be informed by this matter-of-fact approach and replace / repair building elements such as timber floors and roof as required. This approach was also reflected in the working relationship with the builder, whose scope of work was defined with direct contractors, to whom items such as joinery, metalwork and fitting-out were seperately contracted. 

Principles & Approach

The brief was to redevelop the existing premises to provide offices and retain flexibility to allow for future use by more than one tenant or a combination of residential/business tenants. Accordingly the building had to able to accommodate separate entrances, various levels of privacy and sharing of services, and a high level of security. Other major concerns were to rehabilitate the building in terms of circulation, ventilation and lighting.
In response a courtyard was reinstated with access off Nederlands Lane and a new double storey service core with wet services and storage provided. The surface finish of the lane is continued into the courtyard; similarly, the balcony is treated as a continuation of the neighbouring property to give emphasis to the older core of the building. These fat walls were simultaneously a major design constraint and opportunity. No new window openings were made into them; instead skylights and clerestory windows provide reflected light. Internal door openings are left intact thereby highlighting the bulging and tapering of existing walls. Level changes and door openings are exaggerated to suit their scale, thereby contradicting the compact layout. At ground level, the mezzanine floor was demolished to leave a double volume library/meeting space with an over-scaled sliding sash window opening to the street. Vulnerable openings are layered by robust sliding screens and shutters as a reference to the history of warehouses along Buitengracht Street, while openable timber sidelights to glazed doors and windows allow ventilation through protected openings. 
This approach aimed to renovate the existing structure in a way that is respectful to its historic nature, function and context.