Ndebele meets Memphis style in Uxolo, Cape Town's newest apartment block

A contemporary micro-apartment project by Two Five Five Architects proves that small spaces can be practical and beautiful

19 May 2019 - 00:11
By Julia Freemantle
The dynamic facade of the Uxolo building.
Image: Supplied The dynamic facade of the Uxolo building.

The urban landscape is only as exciting as the buildings it's made up of, so the challenge for architects is to offer design variety while also juggling practicalities. When a building achieves both, it's a triumph.

In Cape Town's new Uxolo development, Theo Kruger and Andre Krige of Two Five Five Architects take everything we love about compact city living and turn it up a notch.

"South Africans are used to urban sprawl in cities. Uxolo's identity, however, is defined by the urban dweller who wants to be centrally located," says Kruger. This means being within easy reach of eateries, transport routes and amenities. Close to Kloof and Loop streets, Uxolo is the quintessential Cape Town city location that proposes smart small-space living as an option.

From an architectural point of view, it is refreshing. "The building's façade and interiors were conceived to stand out, rather than mimic other buildings. Our aim was to use traditional materials in a way that would evoke excitement, not blend into the background," says Krige.

The team delved into other design genres for inspiration. "Trying to figure out the façade was no small task. We looked at patterns and layouts, some inspired by Esther Mahlangu and The Ninevites' fantastic rugs," says Krige. Working with Corobrik products, the architects were able to create something on trend. "We ended up with something we think is fun: Ndebele meets Memphis style."

For the interior of the studio-style apartments, Two Five Five and sister company Triple Zero looked to the international market, specifically work by London-based 2LG Studio and Colombo and Serboli Architecture from Barcelona.

"We also considered various social and economic demographics - the single occupant, a professional couple, an Airbnb guest - in terms of what they could possibly need from the space," says Kruger.

The final design managed to fit in bedroom, lounge, dining room, en-suite bathroom and kitchen, as well as abundant concealed storage. "Then we set about making it look effortless."

Thanks to their well thought-out design, Uxolo's compact apartments feel larger than life.
Image: Supplied Thanks to their well thought-out design, Uxolo's compact apartments feel larger than life.

Due to the design intricacies of such a small space, the architecture and interiors needed to work together. "Having Triple Zero in the same office allowed us to design more efficiently and ensure that the language of the project was coherent," says Krige.

"Our aim was to deliver an experience rather than just an apartment. We had to sink our teeth into every bit of the detail and go further than obvious elements like bedding and furniture. We had to give the same attention to the eccentricities," says Kruger.

Quirky and custom design came into play here. Triple Zero went deep into the detail, to the extent that they designed a bathroom range specially for the project, while sourcing unusual details from the perfect salt and pepper grinder to fun fridge magnets. "The idea was to make the micro apartments as curated as possible."

• Apartments in the Uxolo development are available via