The Tsitsikamma: Architecture and Landscape Exhibition was the presentation of a number of projects that explored architecture and its potential responses to landscape. The exploration was mediated though the design of an interpretation centre and boutique hotel in the Tsitsikamma Nature Reserve in the Eastern Cape, which offered a program that is intrinsically rooted in offering visitors an experience of the surrounding landscape. 
The site was in the Tsitsikamma nature reserve in a romantic coastal environment, located at the start of the popular Otto trail, alongside an existing conference facility and a defining mountainous rock feature situated in the ocean. The class was taken on an excursion for 2 nights to explore and engage with the site through a number of analytic and poetic engagements. 
Students in the design studio do not usually get the opportunity to develop projects into late stages of technical resolution and detailing, given time frames and workload demands within the course. In response it was decided that, instead of students all developing individual projects, the project would follow a process that had been previously developed and learnt in the AfrikaBurn project earlier in the year. This process involved students developing individual proposals at a more conceptual level of resolution and then divided into teams to further resolve 4 selected individual proposal selected by the class. Team efforts allowed a detailed development of the projects, at an exhibition quality, within a feasible time-frame.
Observations that emerged from the process of designing the new interpretation centre and boutique hotel revealed different potential relationships between architecture and landscape. This can be further articulated on a sliding scale between SYNONYMOUS and AUTONOMOUS. Architecture that is synonymous is closely related to its environment, whereas architecture which is autonomous stands alone within its context. This is not to suggest that there is a correct way, but that different approaches lead not only to different aesthetic conditions, but to different experiences of the landscape. The degree of autonomous or synonymous can be defined by the spatial and formal relationship between the building and the surrounding environment.The project designs presented alternate methods of working with the landscape in of aim of producing potent and meaninful experiences of the landscape.
The natural linear rock formations along the coastline produce natural human scaled spaces between. The idea behind the building was, with minimal change, to inhabit the existing spaces on site through an understanding of the spatial potential of the various spaces between the rocks to accommodate the functions of the design brief. With limited vertical intervention, a new concrete slab is proposed to make the ground plane habitable and a floating roof keeps the weather out. Spatially the building is nestled between the spaces of the rocks, which shelters from the hard ocean environment and intimately engages with the surrounding natural rocky walls. This degree of integration is further reinforced by ambiguous edge lines, and although views are limited in this intimate engagement, numerous access points to the outside create a strong physical connection between the inside spaces and the surrounding natural environment. Formally the roof reflects the horizontality, scale and the sharp undulating character of the rock formations, while materials contradict with a lightness that reinforces the sensitive approach to the site and heightens the raw experience between the visitor and the natural landscape.
This project proposes an architectural wrap along an existing rock jet out. As the wrap engages with the existing linear rock feature, it moves and defines spaces on, above and alongside to offer the visitor a diverse and rich experience of the site. The main common facilities are placed on top at the entry of the building, while more private spaces, hotel rooms, are arranged alongside the rock face; creating a more intimate engagement with the rock face and the energies of the ocean. Spatially, through this approach, the placement of the building on site is integrated with a defining feature on the site, and at a smaller scale the building integrates at various degrees of above, on and alongside. Formally the architecture is broken down to the scale of the rocks and adopts the linear nature of the site. Alternatively a purest, lightweight formal vocabulary contrasts the existing condition creating dynamic mediations between the “tamed” and the “untamed”.
The building explores the notions of field conditions (a preoccupation with relationships as opposed to objects), being positioned within a natural rock valley which creates the first degree of enclosure. The first layer is a roof structure, which then supports hanging nests which create a dramatic experience of the landscape. The intent is that the nests, with their lightweight fabric and being able to limitedly move, would produce a dramatic experience of the environment; nestled between the rocks over the ocean below. A series of ramps connect the various nests and larger facilities are based on the land. Spatially the building offers a degree of different views through different mediations of enclosure and is physically disconnected from the surrounding environment by its aerial strategy. Formally the building contrasts its surrounding environment, with circular, suspended nests, which also materially contrast the heaviness of the natural surrounding earth formations.
Perched on a natural rock jetty the building is hurled into the coastal elements, offering the visitor a sublime experience that mediates between the safety of the interior and the treacherous surrounding ocean and jagged natural landscape. The vertical approach is inspired by a lighthouse that bravely faces the ocean offering a vantage point for a strong visual relationship with the surrounding environment and reinforces the tensions between danger and safety. Spatially, although exposed to the elements of the sea, the towerr removes itself from the environment and direct continuity between inside and outside is preferenced for the drama of being up. The building is spatially exposed, yet moderately integrated, visually well connected and has little physical connection with the immediate environment. Formally the architecture sits firmly on the ground, makes reference to the jaggedness of the rocks and retains the formal scale of the context, but contradicts the horizontal nature of the surrounding environment. Materials play against the hardness of stone with the fragility of glass, reinforcing the temperamental experience the guest has between shelter and wilderness.


Design Studio Head: 
John Andrews
2nd Year Student Project Teams:
Sheathing of an [UN]Tamed Nature: Dylan Burton (Team Leader), Adam Ball, Bradley James, Leandri Le Roux, Dijean Mzumara, Cynthi Ngujuri, Lumari Pretorius, Jared Olivier
The Cutting Edge: Nibonge Mazibuko (Team Leader), Cooleen Coegelengberg, Kawthar Jeewa, Danielle Kotze, Ross Langtree, Luke Miller, Chemari Van Zyl
The Palimsest: Daniella Patsolos (Team Leader), Isadora Bento De Carvalho, Carmen Manthe, Kaylin Pillay, Handri Pretorius, Jana Rust, Sine Stofile, Elri Syfert
Tsitsikamma Stone: Ruan Du Plessis (Team Leader), Jade Cudin, Dennis Hoft, Busang Makhele, Siya Makie, Viera Mathiale, Mzwakhe Mgomezulu, Christiaan Stander