Published 07 July 2021
Both inspiring and timely, given the recent need for well-designed outdoor public spaces, a series of buildings and landscape designs are the latest additions to the long-term development plan for the acclaimed Bosjes estate. The new pantry and farm shop join the award-winning chapel (featured on the cover of VISI 89), restaurant and accommodation as well as the Botha’s Halte Primary School, and form the anchor point amid large-scale landscaping changes that include a garden of endangered indigenous Cape renosterveld, an array of water-related elements, and multiple outdoor leisure spaces.
Conceptualised by London-based lead design architect Coetzee Steyn of Steyn Studio (who also designed the Bosjes chapel) and realised by project architect Tiaan Meyer of Meyer & Associates, the two built elements are similar in style. Their aesthetic and form were inspired by the San matjieshuis (mat house) and the first dwellings of the Dutch settlers, the kaphuis (truss house). The matjieshuis was a portable, curved, slat-framed structure covered with woven mats – used by San herders as they migrated seasonally – while the kaphuis consisted of a series of A-frame trusses covered with thatch. Like these traditional structures that blended seamlessly into the landscape, so too do the new Bosjes buildings.
Coetzee calls the new structures “anchored” and “perfectly burrowed” – both apt descriptions. While visually striking, the buildings nestle into the gentle slope of the hillside and are rendered almost invisible until one steps right up to them.
Referring to them as Die Spens (the pantry) and Die Winkel (the shop) might describe the two buildings’ functions, but it doesn’t come close to suggesting the atmosphere they create. They are also fully “enfolded”, as Square One’s Hugo van Niekerk puts it, within an integrated network of landscape structures and planting that weave in the concept of working ecology into the cultural landscape. There may be a long, straight path running up the axis between the key points of the chapel and the manor house, but this is not the way in which the majority of visitors will now experience Bosjes. Rather, the constantly curving pathway devised by design lead Julia McLachlan at Square One will guide them – via viewing decks, avenues made for strolling, and areas designed for outdoor lounging, dining and inquisitive children – through an entrancing garden. As Coetzee says, “The curved pathway draws you through the landscape, keeping the new buildings out of view and allowing them to unfold every time you turn into each of the shop and pantry precincts.”
Sand, water and forest play features are included among the multiple spaces created to “entice children to interact with natural ecologies and agricultural systems”, says Mark Saint Põl of Square One. The planting has been kept naturalistic and water-wise, with trees used to reinforce the patterns of a rural landscape complete with agricultural windbreaks and irrigation furrows that add a special, understated charm to the garden.
The final result is a set of architectural interventions, each remarkable in itself, that together serve to resolve and integrate the estate’s design as a whole, as well as instantly transforming Bosjes into one of the Western Cape’s must-visit destinations.