The Lion Couchant - Architecture of the ontological landscape of Lion Mountain

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This dissertation is focussed on the natural and cultural landscape of the 'Lion Mountain', comprising of Signal Hill and Lion's Head, Cape Town. Based on the earlier theoretical analysis of reading place through a phenomenological approach to landscape of memory, as well the technological analysis of contemporary methods for architectural mapping, both studies serve as a pretext to the dissertation, in so far as to provide tools of engagement and interpretation of the study area to be identified as the "overall site". The resultant findings uncover a rich, highly complex layering of place and the relationships that permeate the various stages of human inhabitation here. These findings provide the platform for tracing the present day evidence of their respective adaptations, and as such, identifies that the role of the landscape, primarily a seasonal place of recreation – in contemporary culture - dissolves within itself muted and often absent representations of its multifaceted history. Thus, the overriding architectural problem questions whether perhaps the true value of this landscape lie in its ability to be understood by its user as much as it is to be enjoyed, beyond its often chaotic usage. The project challenges the customs of both historical narrative and active natural landscape as inherently separate archetypes and proposes the establishment of a framework upon which key significant elements of the narrative, spread across the broader landscape, get developed as a series of spatial episodes with unique supporting programs. The neutrality of everyday life is suggested as the common factor that brings these archetypes into discourse. A network of inter-leading routes then incorporates these interim destinations and their respective histories into a dynamic present. The architectural design of each of these destinations gets expressed through the intimacy of the sensuous qualities of the built fabric and the fragility of natural ecology and its temporal authority. At times delicate influence simply reinforces existing conditions, and at others more extensive persuasion is required to realise the special qualities of each location. Adaptive reuse plays as big a role with programming the existing as it does with modes of production - emphasizing the situatedness of place and experiential embodiment. Such valency in the proposal shifts the prominence of normative associations of "nature reserve" maintenance and management into qualitative public engagement at a much deeper level than what is presently experienced.