Our concept of “Working ecology into the cultural landscape” explores opportunities for connection to ‘Place’ by revealing and interweaving cultural and natural heritage informants to create valuable environments for people to connect with each other in nature.
The design comprises three landscape realms of forest, glade and meadow connected by a curved pathway that evokes a sense of space as one journeys through the relatively narrow site. Two subterranean buildings include a deli, shop, kitchens and offices to serve the park, existing chapel, spa, restaurant and guesthouse. An integrated water management design references historic farm systems in the valley with functional and playful streams, channels, weirs and dams that capture and filter water throughout the site.
“Square One developed a design concept that exceeded our expectations. Not only is the garden in perfect harmony with the buildings, but it is also non-intrusive in the existing landscape.”
Carlen Vorster, CEO of Hospitality & Marketing, Bosjes Wine Estate.
Our heritage response considered the site as a microcosm of the valley section with the historic gabled homestead and the new chapel as the anchoring ‘mountain ridges’. Heritage conditions meant that no new buildings could visually detract from the manor. This informed the decision to incorporate subterranean buildings that merged indoor and outdoor spaces with the surrounding landscape. The buildings are concealed from view until visitors are guided over their roofs and into their sunken forecourt spaces below.
Our proposal incorporated the following design principles and strategies:
“Regenerative ecological strategies” to bring a highly degraded site back to life.
The site originally hosted the critically endangered Renosterveld vegetation type which is now less than 2% conserved across the Fynbos Floral Kingdom. Years of overfertilization had left the soil non-viable for farming or the reestablishment of endemic vegetation. We developed a strategy with Vula Environmental Services to remove the invasive weed seed stock and extract the macro nutrients from the soil through successive planting and burning of annual grasses. Indigenous seeds were gathered over multiple seasons from intact local plant communities. Many of the Fynbos species are dependent on fire ecology for their propagation which meant that most of the seeds required innovative smoking, soaking, or scarification techniques in order to germinate. Endangered geophytes were rescued from nearby development sites and replanted on site to add to the diversity and seasonal colour of the naturalistic plantings.
“Microclimate enhancement and habitat creation” to create shelter in harsh climatic conditions.
The extreme local wind conditions and harsh summer temperatures meant that the indigenous forest species that grow in the local sheltered valleys needed additional protection to thrive along this ridge. To achieve this, we referenced the historic windbreaks of the valley farms to create both shelter and a sequence of usable landscape rooms. We worked with reforestation specialists and academics to identify appropriate pioneer, nursery and companion species that will accelerate the successful establishment of a woodland canopy. We designed a multifunctional canopy walk through the woodland that serves as both a lookout deck and play structure that enables visitors to observe the growth of the woodland canopy from above.
Celebrating cultural landscapes by revealing a meaningful Sense of Place.
Our objective was to create a regional destination that attracts new visitors to celebrate local farming heritage by providing unique amenity and custom-built play experiences. Traditional construction techniques were revived through the reuse of existing stockpiles of sandstone boulders and cobbles that were discarded when the farm’s fields were originally cleared. The larger boulders were used to support the new terrain and to define pathways. The cobble water channels reference the Cape Dutch leivoor system – a traditional water supply channel of the region – and reinterpret them as attractive, cooling water features that highlight the centrality of water throughout the design. A water treatment train was designed as an attractive creek with check dams to remove impurities from the water.
“Multifunctional design” integrates functionality and amenity for maximum return on investment.
Our client’s objective to maximise the functionality of the site led us to create a sequence of outdoor spaces that could facilitate multiple events at the same time including picnics and parties for day visitors, multiple weddings as well as summer concerts. The articulation of the terrain and integration of the water systems created a variety of spatial experiences and opportunities for play and exploration. By bringing together the cultural and ecological attributes of the site, we were able to achieve a layered landscape filled with wonder and meaning.
Architecture offices involved in the design:
Steyn Studio (Design Architect)
Meyer&Associates (Project Architect)
Worcester, Western Cape, South Africa