The Opening Act


With Ross Cooper, Metropolis Design

What is the conversation that a house has with its surrounding landscape? What ideas does it communicate through its form and materials? How does it positively interact with its inhabitants and with a first-time viewer? This dialogue – the one between a building, its surroundings, and the first experience one has with it – is what shapes the first impression.

Clear core values

My idea of a residence’s perfect first impression is when key natural and built features are incorporated in the exterior of the house. What makes this an epitome of perfection to me is when these details are used to offer a peek at the house from the road through the property’s flora, with materials like raw concrete and burnt timber allowing it to blend into its leafy site. An opening in the street view of the façade also allows a noteworthy first impression when giving a glimpse of features such as a planted courtyard at the centre of the house.

A light and delicate roof gives the impression of floating over minimal wall elements, masterfully echoing the natural canopies of its surroundings. Verdant greenery can be used to see through and reflect off the surface of the glazing, firmly planting the house into its surroundings. The architectural language should be simple and understated, making for a perfectly seamless exterior design. The first impressions of the house can thus accomplish a clear expression of its core values upfront: harmony with nature and simplicity.

PeterCloete Metropolis ParisB 5 HR
15 Kerzner 78 ed

Bold yet balanced

Another exterior I find achieves my ultimate goal for a first impression is when a collection of bold cubic forms are balanced precariously on a planted earth bank. This is best incorporated when the forms take their cue from slopes and rock formations in the background – a brilliant way of using the natural landscape as inspiration. The simplicity of the forms works well when contrasted by the complexity of their arrangement and the variety of natural materials used in symmetry with its surroundings, such as stone, raw concrete, and timber. These stylistic choices do not yield to a fleeting first impression; the ideas emerge and interact with the viewer impactfully as they move progressively across the house.

For the first encounter with a home to offer an experience that is built to last, a holistic approach to integrating the natural with the man-made is essential. It is in this that a memorable, visceral reaction is inspired – the ultimate achievement of any first impression.

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