Architecture Round-up: 6 Outstanding Projects by Robert Silke

The outside of the Flamingo designed by Robert Silke

COMPILED BY Gina Dionisio PHOTOS Dook, Jan Ras, Paris Brummer

Step inside the creative mind of architect Robert Silke.

If you enjoyed the fascinating Disa Park feature he wrote for our Building an Icon series, have a look at some of our favourite apartments, hotels, and houses that he has designed over the last few years.

The Flamingo

The Flamingo by Robert Silke
Inside the stairwell of the Flamingo by Robert Silke

Situated the in middle of Fresnaye and the Sea Point Promenade, and wedged between a combination of dated flats, same- same modern apartment blocks and an excess of commercial entities, is The Flamingo. As with all structures designed by architects extraordinaire Robert Silke & Partners, nothing about this building is ordinary.

Known for his love of Art Deco, Modernism and PoMo, Robert refers to The Flamingo’s aesthetic as “Bauhaus on heat”. Unlike the uninspired steel-and-glass high-rises infiltrating Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard and CBD, The Flamingo – similar to the architecture studio’s Tuynhuys apartments in the city centre and Anew Hotel in Green Point – is a breath of fresh air, with curved white walls, black accents and a spectacular glass-bricked eight-floor stairwell that makes you want to up your step count rather than take the soundless and speedy lift.

Read the full story in our current issue, VISI 124.

Bauhaus-inspired Fresnaye Family Home

Bauhaus-inspired home by Robert Silke
The lounge inside the Bauhaus-inspired home by Robert Silke

There’s something altogether contrary about designing a Fresnaye house that presides over the Atlantic Seaboard without giving a second thought to the views. But when it comes to this dazzling home, there’s no desire to follow the rules. You’ll find soft curves where you’d expect sharp right angles and, while you’re cleverly protected from onlookers, glass-walled neighbours find themselves exposed.

“They didn’t care a damn for the views,” says Robert about the homeowners’ brief. “It had to be a functioning family home – that it has views is a bonus.” But take one glance at the bleached-white, three-storey structure that looks a little like an abstract jigsaw puzzle from the outside and you know there’s more to this house than just a family home.

Read the full story, here.

Green Point Hotel

Green Point hotel designed by Robert Silke
Inside the Green Point hotel designed by Robert Silke

Hotels are tricky things to design; trickier still to design beautifully.” It’s one of the first things Robert says when talking about his latest creation. “When you build a hotel, you’re essentially making it out of Lego blocks – and those blocks are rectangular rooms.” In the case of Anew (formally Vīb, a brand extension of the international hotel group Best Western) aimed at young, urban travellers, Robert lucked out.

Read the full story, here.

Arts and Crafts Revival Home in Pinelands

Robert Silke's Pinelands home
The kitchen in Robert Silke's Pinelands home

There’s a certain witchiness to Robert’s family home in the Cape Town suburb of Pinelands. A darkly dramatic front gate framed by a brick archway reading Caverswall opens onto a narrow garden path, which leads you to a house that’s equal parts imposing and intriguing, with a steeply pitched, clay-tiled roof, spiral chimneys and brickwork finish – all in the same burnt-honey shade. “It’s basically a gingerbread house, right?” says Robert, taking in the facade of the 1938 Arts and Crafts Revival structure he shares with partner Gideon and their one-year-old daughter Lilith.

“Pinelands was established in the 1920s, when there was a big push around the world for an approximation of English country living,” says Robert. “There was a planner in the UK called Ebenezer Howard, who invented the suburb, which he originally called a garden city. The idea gained global traction in reaction to the Spanish flu – people felt that the way they lived in cities wasn’t healthy. Pinelands was actually the third garden city in the world.”

Read the full story, here.

Apartment in the Iconic Holyrood Building

The Holyrood building where Robert Silke renovated an apartment
The kitchen inside Robert Silke's renovated Holyrood apartment

There simply isn’t a better view in Cape Town than the outlook from a Holyrood apartment on a summer evening. Sorry, denizens of the Atlantic Seaboard and devotees of Boyes Drive. Apologies, everyone in Bloubergstrand and Bishopscourt. But if you one day stand on a curvy, postage-stamp-sized balcony at this, one of the Mother City’s best-known buildings, you’ll understand. Set out directly below you is the Company’s Gardens, green and verdant, with its blend of landscaped formality and whimsically wandering humans. Beyond that to the left is downtown Cape Town and its various unfortunate high rises – and then to the right, the dramatic sweep of the City Bowl and the face of Table Mountain.

But the view is just one of the many reasons why you might want to live in Holyrood. As one of the few Cape Town buildings that can properly be called “iconic”, this narrow Art Deco apartment block is instantly recognisable and very beautiful. Plus, it’s also always attracted what one of its best-known residents, architect Robert Silke, broadly describes as “outcasts and eccentrics”, among whom this maverick designer would undoubtedly include himself.

Read the full story, here.


Tuynhuys designed by Robert Silke
Inside a Tuynhuys apartment designed by Robert Silke

A striking vessel has steamed into view and dropped anchor among the venerable advocates’ chambers that line Cape Town’s Keerom Street. Home to 43 small apartments, four mini-penthouse suites, and sporting a striking white visage, Tuynhuys makes a bold statement – both to anyone standing below it and to the plethora of boxy monoliths currently being Rubik’s-cubed across the city.

It’s also very obviously a long-awaited sibling for Holyrood (mentioned above), the Mother City’s iconic Art Deco apartment block located around the corner. And that’s no coincidence. Tuynhuys architect Robert Silke, lives in Holyrood and is a devotee of the architecture style popular during the 1920s and ’30s. Not that Tuynhuys is pure Deco – the design also folds ’70s and ’80s Postmodernism into Deco’s principles of futurism and its cost-effective way of creating decorative shape and form. As a result, instead of the ubiquitous glass and laser-cut alloy cladding, Tuynhuys employed the seldom-used technique of using plain old concrete, bricks and plaster to create its repeated curves, portholes and bisecting lines. “It was always going to be a critical part of the build,” says Robert. “There were no frills. All this building had was the plaster to create its shape and form, but contractors JLK Construction approached the whole thing with skill and love, often resolving the geometries for us.”

Read the full story, here.

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