Oudewerf Hotel Stellenbosch

Revel Fox & Partners

This project is a sensitive addition to an existing historic hotel in Stellenbosch, the oldest hotel in the area. The site embraces a number of historic buildings into which a contemporary addition/ alteration has been inserted.

Revel Fox and Partners have structured the site through the use of two courtyards. On the west side, a dining court accessible to the public is surrounded by the hotel’s more public facilities. On the east is a more private garden court, around which the hotel rooms are clustered.

The Church Street façade comprises three distinct elements: a Cape Dutch townhouse, a Victorian dwelling and a new element between the two which successfully ties them all together, helping to reinforce the streetscape that is a characteristic of Stellenboch. Here, the architects restored the two old buildings and removed inappropriate additions. The façade of the 1980s infill building has been replaced with a simplified linking one. Modest changes maintain the scale and visual quality of the existing complex. Trees are retained and the whole feel of the hotel is one of modesty and elegance.

The internal garden court is articulated through a careful rhythm of projecting bays, which function as covered porches at ground floor levels, as glazed alcoves at first floor level and as balconies above. The impact that the top-floor bedrooms might have had on this tight urban courtyard has been reduced by recessing the rooms and by cladding the upper floor walls with blue-grey coloured sheet metal. This functions effectively as a contemporary interpretation of a mansard roof, reducing the visual scale of the building.

The architecture distinguishes between old and new. The old relies on thick loadbearing masonry, whereas the new is celebrated with lightweight materials including steel, glass and pale timber. There is an appropriate contrast between the rough hand-made feel of the historic masonry walls and the new highly machined finishes, elegantly proportioned. Emphasis on the verticality derived from the historic buildings has been retained, even though the materials and architectural language is thoroughly contemporary.

Thresholds between the private rooms and the garden court have been cleverly handled through the use of levels and landscaping – allowing residents of rooms on the ground floor to enjoy the amenity of the garden, without having other guests looking into their rooms.

Unfortunately the interior decoration does not reflect the restrained elegance of the architecture and the unnecessary inclusion of gabion walls is a gratuitous fashion-driven element that detracts from an otherwise noteworthy project.