Uxolo is a contemporary micro–apartment project by Two Five Five Architects and proves that small spaces can be as practical as they are beautiful. The tapestry-inspired exteriors of Uxolo have garnered much attention from designers and passers-by alike, as they brighten up Cape Town’s CBD with iconic flair.
Uxolo micro apartments are located at 4 Vredenburg Lane, down a narrow alley. The client’s brief to 255 Architects was complicated. The key concept was to design an apartment building that speaks to its local context, that of the inner city of Cape Town, but relates to the world as something truly African. The block’s target market is the city dweller, and it was to have no on-site parking and feature micro-units with ample common spaces, bicycle storage and a coffee shop.
Excitingly, Uxolo Apartments is the first completed micro-unit residential development located in the Cape Town CBD. The project consists of 35 residential units ranging between 24m² micro studio units and 40m² loft units, as well as a lobby and retail area on Ground Floor. Quite impressively, all of this exists on a stand of only 195.5m².
The initial developments intention for the project was to create an iconic short-stay accommodation destination in Cape Town, with some long-term tenants, in the same way that Tokyo has the Nagakin Capsule Tower and Rotterdam has the Cube House. The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a re-evaluation of this approach, focusing on longer-stay tenants. This resulted in units that where far more complex in design to meet the considerably more extensive requirements of a permanent tenant. The change in focus required some additional planning but resulted in a building that arguably better responds to a need in the South African housing market.
For residents of South African cities there are currently few ‘curated’ and cost-effective alternatives to the South African norm of urban sprawl and long commutes. The project located on Vredenberg Lane, an alley joining Long Street and within walking distance of Kloof and Loop streets, is within easy reach of offices, eateries, transport routes and amenities. The relatively small size of the units ensures that they are affordable to a large section of the market.
In order to successfully accommodate a long-term tenant in the micro-units special attention was paid to detailing the interior of the units. A single joinery-unit, almost stretching the length of the unit, accommodates all the possible daily needs and activities of a resident. The joinery installation was designed, manufactured, and installed by Kink Design, a branch of Two Five Five Architects. The fact that the joinery installation was conceived and managed efficiently in the same office ensured that the language of the project stayed coherent. The design of the unit simultaneously accommodates a fully kitted kitchen, built in cupboard, slide out study desk, abundant concealed storage as well as a murphy bed that stows away to reveal a sofa for the lounge. In the kitchen each drawer contains custom-made laser-cut steel dividers to simplify storage. All of the fittings by Kink were made and installed by the TwoFiveFive team.
There are four of these studio units on each of the eight floors, along with a loft unit on every second floor. To accommodate these units the small site area available had to be used efficiently, with the building built right up to the 0m building lines. Too allow for natural light in the units’ glass blocks were used, instead of stepping the façade back for windows. The resultant flat façade was treated just as that, a flat plain on which a tapestry can be laid. The design takes inspiration from traditional patterns as seen in the work of Esther Mhlangu, as well as contemporary textile design such as rugs by Ninevites. The glass bricks on the façade were combined with different face-bricks by Corobrik to create a ‘tapestry’ that is low in maintenance and should age well.
The tapestry façade is punctuated by bright pink ‘marshmallow’ balconies on the street façade. These balconies create a valuable added footprint to the units from which the residents can look over the city to the iconic Table Mountain. At the same time, the balconies also hint the ‘iconic’ image that that was part of the developmental brief.
Uxolo is one of the first local developments to really take the concept of micro-living seriously, with micro apartments sitting at 24m². During the building process, one of the directors of TwoFiveFive, Theo Kruger, found himself living and working out of the building, this allowed him to consider everything that a potential tenant would need during their stay.
Seldomly do architects live in their own builds, let alone buying a unit. “Uxolo” means peace in Xhosa and the building reflects wild colours against neutral flooring and finishes. These apartments are move-in ready for tenants who only have a mattress, some crockery and the clothes on their back.
Meet the team:
Client: Vredenberg Properties
Architects: TwoFiveFive Architects
Structural Engineer: MISC Engineering
Fire Consultant: De Villiers & Moore
Mechanical Engineer: De Villiers & Moore
Electrical Engineer: Frame
Facade Engineers: Sutherland Engineering
Quantity Surveyor: Peregrine