Cool Spaces: Babylonstoren Spice Garden

WORDS Amelia Brown IMAGES Adel Ferreira

The latest addition to Babylonstoren’s magnificent estate is a lush hothouse designed by Malherbe Rust Architects that tells the story of the spice trade and offers guests a distinctive and intimate dining experience.

The experiential space serves to acknowledge and share the important historical role the southern tip of Africa played in the spice trade. In 1652, the Dutch East India Company founded a small settlement at Table Bay. Its gardens serviced ships travelling east with fresh produce and spices, the latter which helped, quite literally, spice up the food at a time before refrigeration.

As with all of Babylonstoren’s lush landscaping, plants in the Spice Garden are either edible or of medicinal value. The main spices that were traded on these long sea journeys are being exhibited, including cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, greater galangal, ginger, turmeric and black pepper.

The building’s heating, cooling and humidity controls were designed especially to cater for the plants. The simple steel-framed greenhouse features polycarbonate plastic glazing, which helps it retain heat and protects the plants from UV rays.

Sunken planting areas surround a wooden deck which sits above a heated fish pond that serves to increase the humidity levels. To lower the temperature, cold water is run over the “wet wall” – the 8 m-long 24-seater granite dining table centrepiece – with air blown onto it.

Image credit: Dook

This pond, as well as two aquariums which have been raised to stand above the deck, contain exotic fish from tropical Asia that have been carefully selected for both their ornamental value and social compatibility. Guests can spot zebrafish, the tinfoil barb, paradise fish and the bala shark, amongst others.

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