Haute On The Heritage Block

Refashioning Maison @ 88 For Budism Couture

As a high-end boutique fashion house that is rapidly establishing itself as a leading Atelier world-wide, Budism Couture represents the highest standard of carefully crafted, handmade couture dresses that are masterpieces in themselves. To meet these merits, the studio needed a space that combined elegance with atmosphere, and renowned architecture firm Peerutin Karol had the perfect solution. The result was two dream teams connecting to bring an inspired vision to life by highlighting the once-dormant savoir faire of the atelier’s ‘new’ home — a significant site on Bree Street’s Heritage Square. 

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The Brief

When Budism Couture recognised the potential in what would become their Maison @ 88, the existing building had housed office space from its previous conversion. The façade of the building still shared some of the original, preservation-worthy design characteristics, while the interior had been remodelled several times and bore little resemblance to the design and function of the original building. Budism Couture wanted to adapt the existing configuration to suit their specific requirements while honouring the site’s value. Led by the team at Peerutin Karol, the project had to navigate an extensive design process that included detailed consultation with a Heritage Specialist, Dr Steve Townsend. The plans involved the retention and refurbishment of the existing front façade with slight modifications, with the aim to reinforce and enhance the prevailing architectural fabric along Bree Street.

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The Site

The site for this project forms part of the Heritage Square Precinct on Bree Street, in the heart of the Cape Town CBD. Over 200 years old, the original two-storey building had been extensively remodelled and re-purposed throughout its life, but the rest of the precinct had been largely preserved to retain the irreplaceable heritage of the entire block.

The Process

The goal for Peerutin Karol was clear: Maintain the integrity of the building while incorporating the allure of the Budism Couture brand. To achieve this, the team decided that behind the façade and within the original masonry envelope, a completely new reinforced concrete structure was needed. Included in the proposal was the addition of two more floors above the original two. To manage this additional height, the original façade was retained in its original form and housed the two new floors within a Mansard-style roof form. The existing fabric of brick and plaster was not extended, but rather the additional space required was formed to clearly read conceptually as a ‘roof’. This roof form is distinctly different to the existing envelope, but houses both additional floors in a single roof profile, creating the impression that it is one composition with two parts – the masonry ground and first floors, and the lightweight roof containing the second and third floors. The slopes of the roof steep away from the façade to minimise the visual impact of the addition and the entire roof form is clad in a grey-coloured Rheinzink roof sheeting.

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Inside the building, the functional space requirements are distributed over the four floors, with a formal Grand Reception and Client Liaison Space with dressing and fitting rooms at ground level.  The studio spaces, where all the hand-based manufacturing happens, are housed on the first and second floors, and at the top level an informal dining and entertainment space is situated. This area opens onto a spacious outdoor terrace that overlooks the exquisite Cape Town skyline towards Table Mountain and Lion’s Head. All the levels in the building are connected by the centrepiece feature of the design concept — an elliptical winding staircase set inside a rectilinear box form.

Despite a clear vision and inspired direction, the refurbishment was no easy feat. Several iterations and construction materials were explored before settling on a reinforced concrete staircase by Phase 3 Construction and a bent steel sheet balustrade by IB Mans of TGS Concepts. Many preliminary templates were prepared before the final design was realised, but the result is a seamless, fluid motion stair and balustrade that anchors the space around it, undoubtedly worth the challenges it presented.

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While the winding staircase is the primary feature of the interior, it is the custom designed and hand-made wrought iron and glass front door that greets visitors upon entry to the atelier. Centrally placed, the door represents the timeless elegance that is associated with Budism Couture and embodies the spirit of collaboration; a craftsman in the United States created each of the metal flowers embedded in the door design. These flowers were then shipped to Cape Town and expertly incorporated into a bespoke, hand-made wrought iron and glass door by Roddy McGuffog, owner of Ferro Classics. This attention to detail and no-compromise attitude is deeply reflected in this feature, making for the perfect final touch to an end-product that is truly representative of the magic of Maison @ 88.

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