Noetsie is one of five overnight huts along the popular ‘Whale Trail‘ within the Southern Cape De Hoop Nature Reserve. It is set apart from the other huts by its contemporary design treatment which ‘touches the ground lightly’ and through its large window walls which blur the inside/outside divide.
Built on the footprint of a previous structure which had become run down and needed replacement, the brief specified that it was crucial to work within the footprint of the existing units in order to avoid lengthy environmental processes. The sensitivity of the site meant that construction was extremely restricted, with construction vehicles, destructive construction techniques and any damage to the vegetation strictly prohibited. The extreme remote access and sensitive character of the site made construction particularly challenging. The methodology in terms of the assembly of the units was informed by the idea of a lightweight kit-of-parts, using predominantly dry construction techniques and modular building components, which would facilitate ease of handling, packaging, transport and erection on site.
The facility, accommodating 12 hikers, comprises two cabin structures which frame an outdoor sheltered ‘conversation pit’ designed around a fireplace at ground, linking the two units. Given that the facility is located in quite an exposed and windswept section of the coast, the conversation pit works well, particularly at night.
So as not to be a visual blight on the landscape, the brief required that the facility blends in with the pristine natural environment. This resulted in the choice of the grey sheet metal cladding as an external feature of the design, which blends in well with the natural environment and forms a seamless and uniform wall and roof cladding, and gives the impression of tented structures.
The interiors are clad in locally sourced pine tongue-and-groove boarding, with the same material forming floors, walls and joinery, providing an understated yet elegant interior.
As a result of the remote location and absence of service infrastructure, the units make use of self-sustainable technological solutions such as a ‘Biolitix’ system, which processes waste and solar resources into electrical power. The long-term functionality of the design pursues a sustainable approach in terms of a low-impact service fit-out, an appropriate choice of materials and the absence of any wet trades.