The restoration of the ensemble of heritage buildings on Buffelsdrift, west of Ladismith in the arid Klein Karoo region of the Western Cape, by SAOTA and Jaco Booyens Architect, a specialist in clay buildings, recently won the gold medal at the seventh edition (2019) of the international International Domus Restoration and Conservation Award. The award recognises “excellence in the field of restoration, redevelopment and architectural and landscape recovery at an international level”.
The house, barns and wine store were all restored. SAOTA director Greg Truen, who acquired the farm in 2016, notes that while minor additions and modern alterations had been made to the buildings, the original house, was “in good condition, considering” and that the barns were “fundamentally untouched”. In the main house, evidence of earlier refurbishments in the 1970s, were stripped out, while modern kitchen and bathrooms were inserted in an adaptive approach to conservation. A new pump house was added near the dam wall on the property. Its design and construction were an experiment in contemporary architecture using the same materials and techniques as the heritage buildings, including poured mud or “cob” walls, as well as brick vaulted roofs. The landscaping around the house took the form of a series of low terraces.
The front section of the house consists of a central living room with a bedroom on each side. The T- section included a dining area. While the front section had yellowwood beams and ceilings, the rafters in T-section were exposed. A lean-to section with a fireplace had been added in one of the elbows of the T using sundried bricks. It was being used as a kitchen.
The house and barns had been constructed according to the usual technique used by Dutch settlers in the Cape, with walls of poured mud or clay, cast layer by layer about 700mm wide. “This method of construction – ubiquitously used by Dutch settlers, trekboers and later Voortrekkers – requires a source of clayey ground into which is added ‘a good proportion’ of sand and grit, possibly straw or dung, combined in a pit, all trod through by oxen-hooves in span,” writes Fisher (quoting William John Burchell’s Travels In The Interior Of Southern Africa). Architects: Jaco Booyens Architect, SAOTA; Area:
14 0000 m²; Year: 2020; Photographs: Adam Letch;