Roar Africa

Exploring Africa Since 1688

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cape Dutch Architecture

The early settlers, in response to street width taxation in Holland, built expansive wide fronted homes when settling in the Cape in the 1700’s. Houses in this style have a distinctive and recognisable design, with a prominent feature being the grand, ornately rounded gables, reminiscent of features in townhouses of Amsterdam built in the Dutch style. The houses are also usually H-shaped, with the front section of the house usually being flanked by two wings running perpendicular to it. Furthermore, walls are whitewashed, and the roofs are thatched.

Generally they are wide fronted homes with small window panes; it is interesting to note that all glass was imported by ship. Front verandas were laid out to use the tiles from passenger ships ballasts. To provide shade vines were sometimes planted to cover the trellis over the veranda.
Readily available local hard woods were used to make shutters. These shutters, apart from being a decorative feature of Cape Dutch houses, were closed at night to keep the family protected from both man and beast. Reeds (Restio sedges) were used as thatching. The Gables that were built at the end of the roof could be either straight, triangular or holbol. The front gable became the signature of each home.

Front doors were designed by the owner in collaboration with Malay artisans who were brought to the Cape by the Dutch East India Company. Homes were large with high ceilings. Floors and ceilings were made of local hard woods like yellow wood (Podocarpus spp). These homes usually comprised an entrance hall, lounge, dining room, kitchen and one main bedroom down stairs. Children’s rooms and attics were generally upstairs. As the family grew a ‘neck’ was build from the entrance hall and two more rooms built at the back of the house making the classical H shape with four gables.

Fortunately many homes remain. Famous historical Cape Dutch homes can be seen on the following wine estates:
Boschendal, Vergelegen, Morgenster, la Motte or Zorgvleit

Cape Dutch architecture is a beautiful and distinctive feature of the South African winelands. For more on visiting the winelands, click here. Or for further references contact Roar Africa.

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