A Tour Through Twin Peaks

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With Stephen Hitchcock & David Long, Stretch Architects

I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.’ We can’t say for sure, but we sense that the mirrored-living adventure of Stephen Hitchcock and Dave Long began with a similar sentiment to that of Twin Peaks character Dale Cooper. To build a home ground that catered for both their families, the directors of Stretch Architects embarked on a journey that is not only a testament to their friendship but also to their knack for innovative city-life solutions. This is that story.


A collaboration of resources
Living in the city has become increasingly unaffordable, and building or buying a home is near impossible. As young architects, Dave and Stephen challenged themselves to figure out a way to buy and build in the city on a small budget. Around the time they were looking for a solution to this problem, the City of Cape Town introduced new bylaws to encourage densification – two dwellings could be built on one property without requiring special permission from the city or neighbours. This meant that one piece of land could now accommodate two families, giving them the chance to pool their collective resources as two couples.

So, they decided to acquire the plot together and divide the costs of construction. You could say this was meant to be, as they
had always appreciated community and teamwork. Twin Peaks made it possible for them to create a mini community of shared space, friendship, and family.

Challenged to succeed
Stephen and Dave agree that this usually leads to some of the most interesting design solutions. Since there were no proper founding conditions, while excavating they uncovered an old house that was demolished and ‘buried’ many years ago. The solution? Underpinning the neighbour’s building, parts of her foundations were left visible in the house – the perfect place to build a couch! Although a total of 189 m², the ground floorplan of each unit measures approximately 37 m², while each of the upper floors is around 29 m². It’s a highly pragmatic response.


New schemes, new opportunities
Their favourite parts of the process include the opportunity to take advantage of the new densification zoning schemes. Being able to build from scratch meant they could optimise the space and improve their responses to the challenges and restrictions. It also meant that they could embrace the views up to the mountains and down to the CBD and ocean while addressing the tricky privacy issues. By actively dealing with the privacy between the two units, they now have a retreat when needed but also shared spaces when desired.

With a plan to be client-free architects by 2030, the project of self-designing their homes is certainly a step in the right direction. All it took
was pooling resources, an appreciation for building communities, and the willingness to develop interesting design solutions to share the land.

This article is extract from our March Issue, to read the full issue click here

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