Conversing with nature
Louis Phillips Architects and Associates
Union Mosaics & Tiles
Paarl, which in Dutch means „pearl“, is a city about sixty kilometres north-east of Cape Town, South Africa. According to tradition, this former Dutch colony, one of South Africa’s oldest cities, was named after three characteristic rock formations that dominate the city centre from a nearby hill and were seen to shine like pearls in the sunlight after a storm by the first Dutch explorer, Abraham Gabemma, back in 1657.
True to its name, today’s Paarl is a charming city with plenty of greenery and gardens and a pleasant Mediterranean climate (it is hardly a coincidence that one of South Africa’s best known wines is produced here). But above all the South African city stands out for its green credentials. It has succeed in creating a balanced relationship with the natural environment and the fertile valley that has determined its fortune and success, promoting green projects and becoming a testing ground for new forms of responsible and eco-friendly living. This focus on the environment is reflected in the numerous projects carried out by young South African architect Louis Phillips, who runs a leading architecture practice in Paarl together with his father Lammie. The latest project they have completed is the Pearl Valley Golf Estate, a private residence which blends harmoniously into the surrounding landscape, complete with its golf courses.
Designed to promote a constant dialogue with nature, the villa communicates with the outside world via large windows that run around the entire perimeter on both levels, giving the building a unique sensation of transparency and communion with nature.
The horseshoe-shaped floor plan is organised around a quiet, sheltered internal courtyard with an elongated swimming pool. Around the patio, a kind of veranda accommodates the main daytime areas: the kitchen, with an extra-large central island; the dining room, also generously sized; the conversation corner, dotted with sofas and chairs arranged around a contemporary style fireplace. The landscape is dominant everywhere. Sliding glass doors and panels open up the spaces (including those of the sleeping area on the upper floor) to create a balanced relationship between the interior and exterior.
The architect’s choice of materials also played an important role in the project, especially the use of ceramic tile (from the Marte collection by Casalgrande Padana) which served as the unifying element between the interiors and exteriors. The porcelain tile lends character and unity to the entire project, regardless of the functional differences between the various applications. The material chosen for the exterior paving comes in a bush-hammered finish with pale, moonlight tones converging on the central pool of water. By contrast, a dark polished finish was chosen for the interiors, where a large size is used to create a sense of uniformity. The distinctive use of ceramic tile in the project won the South African architect third place in the Grand Prix‘ 2010-2012 international architecture competition promoted by Casalgrande Padana in recognition of innovative projects in various areas of building.
„Porcelain was chosen for a number of reasons,“ explained the architect. „These include quality, sustainability and versatility, enabling the product to be used to create a seamless surface in both interiors and exteriors; a wide range of finishing pieces, such as strips, skirting and steps; the availability of extra large sizes that can easily be adapted to different uses; and a variety of finishes for different functional uses.“
In short, it offered a unique combination of design, technological innovation and eco-friendly characteristics that fully met the needs of the project and the urgency of environmental issues.
Casalgrande Padana, Granitogres Marte
30x30, 30x60, 60x60 cm
Nero Acapulco, Raggio di Luna
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): ≤0,10%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): compliant
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): 50÷60 N/mm2
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R9 (naturale) R11 A+B (bocciardato)
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant