WORDS Cheri Morris PHOTOS Sean Gibson Photography
Source Interior Brand Architecture (Source IBA) directs the sensitive restoration and upgrading of one of the Cape’s oldest working farms, Vergenoegd Löw The Wine Estate (VLWE), to its heritage form as captured in a series of 1600s watercolour studies by Jan Brandes housed in Amsterdam’s Rijks Museum.
A series of thoughtful placements, strategic interventions and reconfiguring of irresponsible add-ons by Source IBA and Urban Concepts (the historical architects) reveal the generous gabled Homestead as the hero of the land once more, while the two long barns – believed to be the oldest of their kind in South Africa – stand architecturally revived and interiorly outstanding.
Though the challenge was not only architectural: Source IBA found the soil a series of wildly different patches ranging from acidic to richly fertile and often restrictively moist. Not to mentioned environmental issues, such as the ever-encroaching urban sprawl, borders defined by major motorways and various droughts.
Initially engaged as experiential hospitality experts, Source IBA partnered with a panel of leaders across disciplines to remap a journey of discovery that would not only breathe new life into the farm’s heritage-rich honour, but also realise a contemporary space suited to a new generation of guests. The core principle was to restore it to a proud working farm, not just an attraction. And to do so with local makers; everything was made locally where possible, as local as joiners from Macassar.
With the help of landscapers Planning Partners, every piece of soil on the property was carefully considered: The first tranche of visible change being the dramatic but sensitive resettling of landscaping around the Homestead. Following was a reinstatement of the historic entrance facing the Faure village; an apt change from the previous one close to the N2.
With a firm vision of total reinvention – one that appears invisible to guests; as if the farm’s always been that way – each of the four buildings were renovated one at a time, allowing each to establish its own identity within a broader settlement:
Starting with the wine cellar and deli building dating from the 1920s, the first building renovation
included a major upgrade of the wine making facility – of which included the first reinvented public space. Formerly a series of rooms part of the wine cellar, Bertus Basson’s Die Geuwels now offers soothing daytime luxe that spills over to picnics on the green lawns.
To minimise signage, all of which was replaced by BitterSuite, large interventions attract guests to destinations. One of the most significant is the ‘corkscrew’ by Craig Thomas – a green tunnel that delivers visitors from the parking space onto the werf.
Another is a number of well-presented taps; with the water quality on the farm far superior to municipal water, guests are invited to refill the glass water bottle provided when booking a picnic.
But by far the newly-oriented natural vistas steal the show. Presented through now resolved landscaping – a previously muddled mess of gravel parking lot and odd access points that deeply obscured the poetry of the architecture, the werf now features a most unique frame of Table Mountain over its dam to one side and rolling views of the undulating Helderberg on the other.
As the focal point across the lawn, the gabled Homestead had to be the next project. Sensitively
restored on the outside (under the watchful eye of Heritage Western Cape), the interiors offer an arresting modern mood that offer comfort, effortless but considered hospitality and a sense of ‘leaving it all behind’.
A key aspect of the design philosophy was to offer contrast and seclusion: Seating spaces are generous and vast areas are left unoccupied as the farm purposely endeavours to welcome an air of tranquility over the suffocation of crowding.
Finally, the two precious barns that create the ‘agterwerf received gentle, focused attention to become another Bertus Basson signature restaurant, Clara’s Barn; home of fine dining South African Farm kitchen headed up by Drikus Brin.