Concept and layout:
The proposed building is positioned 23m behind the La Gratitude Homestead to insure that the new building does not overshadow the scale of this historical home. The original H-shape plan-form of the homestead and the position of a 160 year old yellowwood tree inspired the U-shaped layout of the new offices. A formal landscaped courtyard, mirrored around a central axis, together with a subdued water feature creates a seamless connection between the old and new.
Design Approach: Architectural language
The main objective was to successfully integrate an office building into the sensitive scale and mass of the surrounding historical Dorpstreet context. We believe that the architectural language should be contemporary and contextual, not to compete with its surroundings, nor copy decorative details. New buildings are to serve as quiet backdrop buildings that reflect its own time of construction and not to impose on the surrounding architectural heritage. This contemporary interpretation of the Stellenbosch vernacular architecture creates a contrast between old and new, without overshadowing the heritage value of the homestead.
Materials & textures
The pallet of materials used; textured and un-textured plaster walls, glass, natural untreated timber and a nominal amount of steel reflects the contemporary nature of the building, complementing the surrounding historical fabric. Untreated timber sun screening contributes greatly as a softening material on the strong contemporary lines of the facades. Contextually the natural timber is complementary to the timber shutters, windows and doors of the historical homestead. The timber is to age naturally to shades of grey, blending with the thatch roof colour of the homestead in the foreground.
The office block’s large glass windows provide extended views of the homestead, landscaped courtyard and surrounding mountains. The highly reflective glass on the northern façade reflects the back of the manor house, allowing passing pedestrians in Dorpstreet to have a glimpse of the back of the historical homestead that was hidden from public view in the past. This reflection acts as a respectful acknowledgement by the new building, that the homestead is one of the finest gems in the architectural treasure chest of Stellenbosch.