Drawing inspiration from the ways of the San, who first inhabited the Western Cape, as well as the early Dutch settlers, the Garden Cafe is one of two sister buildings, the other a gift shop, carefully burrowed into new expansive gardens. The gardens were designed by Square One, who was selected through a rigorous proposals competition curated by Steyn Studio. It was the clients wish for the garden and buildings to communicate harmoniously.
The simple architectural forms of the buildings were inspired by the San ‘Matjieshuis’ (Mat House) as well as the first dwellings of the Dutch settlers, ‘KapHuis’ (Truss House), which was apparently influenced by the San’s. The Kaphuis is therefore a hybrid of sorts between cultures. 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 precolonial 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 historical landscape and blended subtly with their surroundings. In the garden context, the ‘mounds’ of the new structures have an uncanny resemblance to the nearby surrounding hills.
The gardens represents a microcosm of the valley, which is now being cultivated by means of the new didactic gardens with the buildings nestled in it. The landscaping and the buildings were carefully designed so as not to compete with the existing architectural features of the estate. The gardens have a low visual profile with tree planting reinforcing the existing visual axis and landscape features such as wind breaks, which stitch it back into the surrounding rural landscape.
Intricate trellis type structures, a homage to the San huts, feature as the visual foci across the site. These herd people into the ‘kraal’ (corral)-type forecourts, before twisting to form the enclosures of the cafe/restaurant and the shop, which are then ‘carpeted’ over with the new gardens. The trellis itself will in time become overgrown with native species of plants. In order to hide the scale of the buildings, it was decided to have two separate buildings and have the functional back-of-house spaces underground, which also naturally insulated them. The expressed front-of-house spaces are partly sunken to reduce the scale impact of the flat arched structures. Apart from the forecourts being partly sheltered from winds, their sunken nature emphasizes views to the magnificent mountains. In order to allow the trellis pattern to appear continuously weaved between the interior and exterior, the glazing imitates its pattern, resulting in a zig-zag arrangement which assists the tall vertical structural span.