Sanctuary Mandela

WORDS Michaela Stehr PHOTOS Supplied

Paying tribute to the spirit and legacy of Nelson Mandela, his Houghton family home has been converted into a contemplative hotel in which visitors are encouraged to be inspired by the history of a local hero.

Sanctuary Mandela is exactly that: a sanctuary. As you walk up the steps and under the archway into what was once Nelson Mandela’s Johannesburg home, you are greeted by an André Prinsloo bronze sculpture of Tata Madiba reading a newspaper, placed in almost the identical spot where the man himself would read every morning. This sets the tone for the rest of the moving, understated experience of the interiors of this new boutique hotel.

“We were briefed by Motsamayi Tourism Group to design a space of reflection – a space that tells a story without feeling like a museum,” explains owner and lead interior designer of Kim H Nieu, Ehrardt Nieuwoudt, when asked about the concept behind the hotel. “Sanctuary Mandela had to feel like a hotel, but also like a home. I designed the space to incorporate various original elements that pay homage to the original structure, and although I kept as much intact as possible, there were sections that had to be demolished and rebuilt – but with original aspects hidden strategically, skilfully and ingeniously throughout.”

Ehrardt also actively used patterns and materials that offer subtle nods to Mandela’s heritage, with nothing standing out as garish or brash. Famous artworks and collections – including precious artefacts and personal items – can be seen in the public spaces such as the foyer and the dining area, as well as the individual suites.

Each piece is part of a story that’s spun like a web throughout the building. “You will see details that reference Madiba’s life as well as the narrative of the original home,” Ehrardt says. “These are often subtle, almost hidden, encouraging the viewer to look deeper into each space.”

Sanctuary Mandela
The double- volume exhibition space features artwork donated by the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Certain original features were retained – including the round boundary wall of Madiba’s study, which is reflected from the boardroom and translated into the design of the indoor/outdoor swimming pool. “To honour this structure, we made its footprint visible through the flooring by cutting out a section of the new building and revealing the old foundations below, protected by a glass curve,” says Ehrardt. “This curve extended into the step of the swimming pool outside, where the thatched structure once existed.”

Madiba’s bedroom was also preserved and is now the hotel’s main suite. Two other bedrooms from the original house have likewise been transformed into guest rooms, and an additional six suites were added during the renovation. The quiet, calm spaces all tell a poignant and important historical tale in a one-of-a-kind boutique hotel, offering visitors a healing and thought- provoking experience that is inspired by Madiba’s remarkable life.

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