A creative collaboration between London-based architects Steyn Studio and Square One Landscape Architects based in South Africa has stemmed an effortless fusion between architecture and landscape. The spellbinding design of the Die Spens & Winkel, a garden café that binds over gripping buildings and terrain with intricate trellis assemblies. Imbibing in Breedekloof Valley, South Africa’s Western Cape treasures a great cultural history, and the architects lure their inspiration from the stories of the valley.
A small restaurant/café called ‘Die Spens’ (The Pantry) and gift shop (‘Winkel’), brewed on the Bosjes Estate, showcasing a fascinating and inspiring journey between the two key attractions on the estate: the well-known Bosjes Chapel and the Manor House. In addition, the two maintains their visual dialogue on the vivacious landscape.
The revitalizing garden concept usurps as a microcosm of the broader landscape, referencing the agricultural context. The land participates with delightful playscapes encouraging children and adults to immerse themselves within the natural biosphere and nestle in the dwelling’s warmth. Diverse ecologies integrate wetlands and biological water treatment systems with forest habitats and rehabilitated indigenous vegetation.
The design acknowledges the historic manor house and chapel on the estate and visually enhances their distinguished relationship. The two sits amiably breathing between vineyards and mountain backdrops, balancing the composition with fresh vegetation and a series of processional routes. The landscaping and buildings complement the existing architectural features of the estate. Subsequently, this follows a low visual profile with trees reinforcing the perspective and landscape features such as tree windbreaks stitching it into the surrounding rural landscape.
Steyn Studio worked closely with Square One to position the built structures in enigma and anchors around the landscapes. The seamless integration of terrain with the built structures was an essential design objective from the project’s initiation. The landscaped gardens weave across three sloping terraces, connected by a curving pathway that provides universal access. Both buildings partially step into the slope. The roofs drape with soil, indigenous grasses and succulents to blend seamlessly into the landscape, leaving the panoramic mountain views unscathed.
The simple architectural form inspired by the San called a ‘Matjieshuis’ (Mat House), and the first dwellings of the Dutch settlers, called ‘KapHuis’ (Truss House), a hybrid of sorts between the two cultures intelligently weaved to envisage this contemporary avatar. The Matjieshuis was a portable, curved, slat-framed structure covered with woven mats, used by San herders as they migrated seasonally with their cattle during pre-colonial and early colonial times. The KapHuis was a series of A-frame trusses covered with thatch, with the interior lowered to allow for more headroom. Both structures were part of this historic landscape and blended subtly with their surroundings. The mounds of the new designs have an uncanny resemblance to the nearby serenading hills.
Convoluted & captivating curved oak trellis frames serve as a visual focus that directs visitors inwards and then twists to create the café/restaurant enclosure and a gift shop ‘carpeted’ with new gardens. Over time, these trellises will further integrate, overgrown with more than a dozen species of climbing plants. The expressed conical front is partly sunken to reduce their scale of impact, with the functional back-of-house spaces underground. Moreover, to continuously weave the trellis pattern appearing between the interior and exterior, the glazing imitates it in a zigzag arrangement, which assists the tall vertical structural span of the glass.
The design adheres to a simple material palette. The underground building elements front the mountain backdrop finished in raw cementitious finishes. The thin concrete shell vaulted structures embellished in white reminisce how traditional whitewashed Cape Dutch homesteads dot the landscape. The promenade scored in grey terrazzo adds to the elemental quality of the setting. After extensive research, oak was considered in terms of its durability and bendability to be the best timber for the trellis exposition.
Meyer & Associates, based in South Africa, assisted Steyn Studio in executing the project and aided to resolve a few sophisticated details. The project highlighted structural complexities and challenges during the construction phases due to the elaborate trellis frames and large parts of the building being underground. The encounters overcame with the aid of consulting engineers, expert manufacturers and specialist subcontractors evolving on the project.
The interior design of the garden café echoes an exquisite charm, shelving every nook and corner with garnished elegance. Interior designer, Liam Mooney Studio, designed the deli fit-outs and curation of contents in the gift shop. The stimulating design of the triangular deli counter and lighting directly responds to the two buildings, complementing and accentuating their resilient forms. Delicately oxidized brass and copper sheets clad the display plinths in the shop – adding wonderful dimension and texture to the spatial fervour. In honour of the Breedekloof inspired colour palette, the new cafe and shop embosom on the local vineyards, especially their tones and colour variations in autumn.
Location: Bosjes Estate, Breedekloof Valley, Western Cape, SA
Design architect: Steyn Studio (UK)
Project architect: Meyer & Associates
Landscape architect: Square One Landscape Architects
Photography: Dave Southwood
Furniture & Fit-out Design: Liam Mooney Studio
Civil Engineer: AVDM Consulting Engineers
Electrical engineer: Bührmann Consulting Engineers
Mechanical engineer: Ekcon Consulting Engineers
Gross areas: Gardens | 2ha, Shop | 190 sqm, Deli | 550 sqm