St Cyprian’s is an historic school on the slopes of Table Mountain, overlooking the city of Cape Town and Table Bay. The school needed to extend their facilities to include a Pre-School and Sports Centre. A sloping site at the top end of the campus was identified, but it was important that the numerous existing trees on the site, which were regarded as part of the city’s heritage, were not disturbed. All trees were surveyed and graded according to value, and it was a stipulation of the brief that the buildings were to fit around the important specimen.

Visser Architects won the invited architectural competition commissioned by the school with a design conceived as a sequence of classrooms, threaded between the trees and arranged so as to enclose the main playground: hence the name “School in the Woods”. Each classroom has its own separate roof structure, and the classrooms are connected by an enclosed (glazed) veranda. The wide verandah acts as a passage, but also provides indoor play space and is extended in one corner to form a dining area. The three toilet blocks are demarcated by curved walls protruding into the veranda area. Central cubic washbasin blocks, lit from above by a skylight, reinforce washing as a communal activity.The building was scaled down to make it feel more accommodating to children: the doors are slightly shorter and the wide window cills of the verandah are set low to act as seats or activity surfaces. The choice of materials ties the building into the language of the existing school as do architectural elements such as the curved timber eave props.

It was intended to tie the pre-school into the campus by a circular loggia and circulatory spine, but this was not built due to lack of funds. The Sports Hall was likewise unbuilt.


SAIA project award: New Sports Centre & Pre-Primary School at St Cyprians’ School