Formed by fire : a mountaineering basecamp at the pine plantation in the dystopia of Cecilia Forest

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

I am a mountaineer. I hike, I climb, I camp (mostly without a tent, unless it snows of course). It has been a serious hobby since I was a Boy Scout at the age of fourteen. At the beginning of the year, I saw an opportunity to add a personal touch through experience and interest in order to better design my project-to-be. Something that I have noticed about myself throughout my years of studying is that I am a very image or visual orientated person and so for my participation in the studio design exercises, I sought images that could have provided me with some direction towards an architectural concept. The siting of my project came about while I was riding my motorbike on Rhodes Drive on my way to Camps Bay for sundowners. As I rode past the parking entrance, I did not realize that I passed Cecilia Forest, a place that I was familiar with and yet, as it turns out, not any more. After establishing my site, I explored its history and present condition, which turned out to be quite extensive, hence my initial interest. At this point I very much wanted to arrive at a decision concerning a programme that would be suitable with regards to everything I had researched as well as my own personal drive intents. There were earlier attempts to design a public bathhouse and educational facilities, but the final decision came about after a completed a rather long and grueling trek across the Drakensberg for nearly two weeks, hiking. Hiking has always been a major interest of mine that originated from my youth as a Scout. I consider myself relatively experienced in all aspects of the activity and physical conditions, as far as South Africa is concerned, but this led me to question as to why I had not fully explored the Cape Peninsula from a hiking perspective. This further led to me linking Cecilia Forest to a macro / urban scheme as well as initiating a relative programmatic response through my building.Timber has fascinated me as a structural element because I have yet to work with it at that level. The use of timber was an obvious choice to better integrate the actual site through the physical and symbolic as well as a sustainable approach. The end result is a building suited for mountaineers and the general public to inhabit the forest at various hours and through various uses. The size and bulk will be controlled by what was built there previously as well as what is needed to accommodate a reasonable capacity of people.

Includes bibliographical references.