May 25, 2022
Pengilly House - one of the most iconic architectural homes in Africa!
Protected by the peaks of Lion’s Head and perched over Clifton’s sandy coves, Pengilly House is as extraordinary as its alluring setting. Designed by Peerutin Karol, this masterpiece in Cape Town’s swishest beach destination pays homage to iconic mid-century modern architecture. And now, thanks to In Residence by Pieter Brundyn, you can actually live here…
Such is the cinematic aesthetic of Pengilly House—which channels the essence of Southern CalifornianModernism—that you’d be entirely unsurprised to hear James Bond himself drawling a ‘shaken not stirred’ cocktail request at the sunken bar in the entertainment pavilion cantilevered over the swimming pool. This sculptural home captures the zeitgeist of the jet-set era, when visionary designs reflected the star quality of their residents as well as their dramatic and beautiful locations, from Malibu to Acapulco. Until very recently, you had to travel to Palm Springs Modernism Week to visit and admire these iconic mid-century modern homes. But not anymore! Since 2015 Clifton sports its very own modernist icon in Pengilly.
At the tip of Africa in one of the continent’s most sought-after neighborhoods, Pengilly House draws every bit of drama out of its 270-degree vistas of the Atlantic Seaboard. If you thought you’d gone back to the future, you wouldn’t be far wrong. David Peerutin’s masterful architecture draws inspiration from American modernists, including John Lautner, whose designs such as Elrod House (Palm Springs, 1968) and the Sheats Goldstein Residence (LA, 1963) seem to have been absorbed into the collective subconscious after featuring in movies like James Bond’s Diamonds Are Forever and The Big Lebowski.
So just exactly how did Pengilly House come to be built in Clifton, Cape Town? David Peerutin explains: “The clients were initially considering the purchase of this property based on a concept that conformed to the design principles we had established for the original exclusive estate development. Then they asked a question: ‘What would we do if we were asked to design something completely different? Something more organic, something that reflected its position on the mountain slopes?’”
“They pointed to the house from the movie Iron Man, in fact. Several of John Lautner’s houses seemed to resonate with the image the clients had in mind and were beautiful examples of what could be achieved both formally and spatially. His use of materials and flowing organic forms were inspirations—the decision to use concrete in this way was influenced by his work. I did a very conceptual sketch plan and the decision to proceed with the purchase was based on that.”
Concept made concrete
A whirlwind of creativity followed, with a mere three to four months from Peerutin’s design concept sketch to council submission.“The requirements for the house were extensive,” saysDavid. “The challenge was how to include all that the clients wanted into a form or series of forms that broke down the scale of what is a very large house.”
“We did this by dividing it into a series of discreet forms. The ‘secondary’ functions (garage, staff accommodation, guest apartment, gym, spa, media room and bar) were all housed in a solid ‘base’ over two levelsthat created the garden platform. The ‘primary’ functions (living, dining, study, kitchens, bedrooms, and so on) were expressed in the two levels above the garden.”
The home’s design certainly unlocks the beauty of this coastline. Unfolding out of the mountain slopes, it follows the natural topography of Nettleton Ridge. “Viewed from above, the edges are a series of undulating curves. The idea was to mimic the undulations of the road scape below the house, which winds around the natural forms of the mountain. But, really, the horizontal width of the site allowed for every room to enjoy a view of the coastline below,” explains David.
Built over four levels, the base of the home is clad in sandstone as an architectural expression of its Table Mountain location. Made of two sweeping flying saucers linked by a bridge, the upper two floors floating over this base are all swooping lines, sinuous curves, open spaces and raked glazing. A large tree flourishing in the double-volume internal courtyard gives life to the space. This is an environment that exudes serenity: from the dramatic scale of the off-shutter concrete to the undulating moat/railing pool that seems to merge with the sky and overflow into the ocean below, creating a feeling of boundless space.
The purity of design carries through to the interiors, designed in association with Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens. The synergy with the exterior architecture is seamless: when you enter the entrance lobby from the garage, you engage your senses, with a gurgling soundtrack from the water feature. Copper accents and slatted dark timber panelling create a cloistered ambience, before you rise via the spiral staircase or elevator to the next level, with its cocktail bar, home theater, and spa, complete with a hammam-style indoor swimming pool, steam room, sauna, and hot tub deck. A glass bridge leads to guest suites that enjoy perfect privacy. This is one of David Peerutin’s favorite features: “I can’t isolate just one favorite, but I would have to say that the double-volume garage with suspended glass bridge is pretty unique.”
Form follows function
Rise up another level and you enter the main living area, with its expansive raked windows and curvilinear forms framing unstoppable views. This light-infused space breathes allure, with bespoke furnishings as well as iconic mid-century modern pieces. The palette throughout is true to the principles of organic architecture, with colors and textures informed by the natural surroundings. The open-plan lounge, dining and kitchen area flows out onto the lawn and then to the spectacular entertainment pavilion, with its rim-flow swimming pool, sunken bar and state-of-the-art sound system. If you’re planning a get-together, it’s great to know that a second elevator brings guests directly from the entrance lobby up to the pool pavilion.
“I can’t isolate just one favorite, but I would have to say that the double-volume garage with suspended glass bridge is pretty unique.” - David Peerutin
Floating above is the top level, where blissful bedroom suites form private sanctuaries with astonishing views. A thoughtfully furnished reading room/home office is a haven for anyone needing to catch up on work, or simply enjoy solitude. Above the entertainment pavilion are two curvilinear private guest pods, which open onto a shared private deck with glorious ocean and mountain views—just the ticket for multigenerational vacations when some of your party want to set their own pace.
This striking iteration of modernist architecture is clearly completely at home here in its dramatic Clifton setting. Through In Residence by Pieter Brundyn you now have the chance to make yourself at home in Cape Town’s own futuristic masterpiece, where urban living blends with nature and time stands still.