This site in South Africa is surrounded by majestic mountains with a grand scale which adorned the area with the nickname of ‘Little Switzerland’. Typically Cape Dutch Manor houses set up dialogue with these types of environments, as found in Stellebosch and Cape Town. With the immediate context of the site, the valley is ‘held’ either side with two mountain ranges which sets up a spatial dialogue at a grand scale which occurs on a ‘micro’ level between the Manor House development node and the Bosjes Chapel development node; across the vineyards and gardens.
The chapel development by Steyn Studio reflects, in microcosm, one half of what already exists at the scale of the valley as a whole in terms of its sculptural relationship, as does currently exist between the Manor House and the Waaihoek Mountains. The development profile, architectural form and massing responds sculpturally to the natural configuration of the mountain backdrop.
Similarly, the text of Psalm 36:7 is also considered as an important informative from a poetic point of view, and its interpretation, architecturally, as a structure which ‘floats/glides’ and has motion, although physically static.
In order to achieve the visual ‘lightness’ of the roof; the structure had to be simple, unifying and as structurally efficient as possible. It was therefor decided that the roof can also become the walls/columns; its own supporting structure. To realise this, the architects investigated parabolic/hyperbolic arches and surfaces; and its use in thin shell concrete structures.
This translated into the sculptural form which emulates the surrounding mountains as well as the poetic motion sought. This lightness and motion is further emphasised by means of a strategically placed reflection pond. The form is further refined by means of the interpretation of the baroque ‘holbol’ gable in the edge profile and the roof shape. The main characteristic of a ‘holbol’ gable is that of the combination of outward in inward curvatures which results in a series of ‘peaks’ and ‘valleys’ within the roof itself. Similar to the Mission Churches it has no vertical elements and the form is generally horizontal. As with the gables present on these churches, the identifying element on the Chapel is that of its roof and its shaped edges.
Apart from investigating the local history of the farm, Steyn Studio also looked at Moravian Missionary Stations as inspiration. The aim of the chapel is also to reflect the following qualities present in these historic missionary churches of Mamre, Elim and Wupperthal: utilitarian simplicity of its plan as an assembly space, scale, cultural reference, tranquillity of its white lit interiors, ‘tactileness’ of its undulating whitewashed walls.
However, whereas these churches are mostly inward looking and spiritually reflective, the proposed chapel is to be a more ‘open’ space which invites in, as well as expands its intimacy to the valley and mountains beyond, raising the awareness of God’s creation in the immediate surroundings.
Design and info © Steyn Studio
Images © Adam Letch