Cape Dutch architecture

Cape Dutch architecture is a traditional Afrikaner architectural style found mostly in the Western Cape of South Africa. The style was prominent in the early days (17th century) of the Cape Colony, and the name derives from the fact that the initial settlers of the Cape were primarily Dutch. The style has roots in medieval Netherlands, Germany, France and Indonesia.

Architectural Features

Church in Swellendam in the Cape Dutch style
Above all, representative houses were built in the Cape Dutch style, but also churches. The houses are characterized by an axisymmetric floor plan, often in T or H shape. Above the centrally located main entrance there is a large, elaborately decorated and individually decorated gable. On the sides you will also find gables, which are usually less expensive. The house is whitewashed. The houses have a thatched roof. As a building material bricks were usually used. In Cape Town was omitted because of the fire hazard on the installation of chimneys.

To the front entrance usually lead some steps. There are two half-width windows next to the front entrance, two or four full-width windows to the outside, mostly lattice windows. Above the entrance you will find another window with full width. Behind the entrance is usually the front room (voorkamer) with the doors to the wings and other rooms. Behind it lies the agterkamer, the living room. The fireplace in the kitchen was open.

Preserved Cape Dutch houses can be found along the Wine Route as well as in Stellenbosch, Swellendam, Tulbagh and Graaff-Reinet. Many wineries advertise with pictures of houses for their products. Restored in Cape Town style from 1968, Tuynhuys in Cape Town serves as the residence of the South African president. In total there are still around 400 Cape Dutch buildings in 2013.

Houses in this style have a distinctive and recognizable design, with a prominent feature being the grand, ornately rounded gables, reminiscent of features in townhouses of Amsterdam built in the Dutch style. Whilst this feature is probably the most recognizable, it is not a defining feature of the style. The manor house on the “Uitkyk” Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, for example does not have a gable at all, but remains clearly in the Cape Dutch Style. In the late 18th century, Georgian influenced neoclassical Cape Dutch architecture was very popular however only three houses in this style remain . The houses are also usually H-shaped, with the front section of the house usually being flanked by two wings running perpendicular to it.

The Cape Dutch architectural style is defined by the following characteristics:

Whitewashed walls
Thatched roofing
Large wooden sash cottage panes
External wooden shutters
Long horizontal structures, usually single or double story, often with dormer windows
Green detailing is often used
Most Cape Dutch buildings in Cape Town have been lost to new developments – particularly to high-rises in the City Bowl during the 1960s. However, the Cape Dutch tradition can still be seen in many of the farmhouses of the Wine Route, and historical towns such as Stellenbosch, Paarl, Swellendam, Tulbagh and Graaff-Reinet.

One characteristic feature of South African colonial architecture which has attracted the attention of many observers is the extensive use of gables. Earlier research has repeatedly sought to justify the term `Cape-Dutch’ solely by comparing the decorative form of these gables to those of Amsterdam. However, in the second half of the 18th century, the period in which, the entire development of the South African gable tradition occurs, gable architecture had gradually ceased to be built in Amsterdam. North of Amsterdam, along the river Zaan, however, gable design remained vigorous until the capture of the Cape. South African gables have many features in common with gables along the river Zaan, in spite of the different materials used.

In 1652, the first Dutch settlers around Jan van Riebeeck arrived at the Cape of Good Hope. The first city founding was Cape Town, where the first houses were built in the Cape Dutch style. They were characterized by relationship to the then Dutch architecture, but also absorbed influences from Germany, France and Indonesia.

Initially, the houses were mostly single storey and usually had three rooms. The walls were built of mud or rubble. The soil was usually made of mashed soil or slate from the island of Robben Island. By the beginning of the 18th century, larger houses were built, which for the first time had the typical front gables. For the construction of the gables were abducted slaves from Indonesia and Malaysia. The walls were now built of bricks. From about 1750 new houses were built in U-shape, the T-shape with the kitchen at the end of the wing was common. Later, larger houses were built in H form. Only a few master builders are known by name, including the Frenchman Louis Michel Thibault and the Germans Anton Anreith and Hermann Schütte.

In 1806, the Cape Colony was British-owned, but the architectural style was maintained for the time being. Around 1840, the architectural style changed, as it was the first time central longitudinal walls could move in and the fire risk suggested other designs. By 1850, there was a turn toward Victorian architecture. Especially in Cape Town were demolished in the course of urbanization many traditional settler houses.

Cape Dutch Revival
By the middle of the 19th century the style had fallen out of popularity and many of the buildings were left to decay. In 1893 Cecil John Rhodes purchased the farm Groote Schuur (Big Barn) and hired architect Sir Herbert Baker to redesign the manor house. Baker looked for a Cape vernacular style and drew influence from Cape Dutch buildings. In reality he created an English country home with Cape Dutch style Gables. This led to the Cape Dutch Revival style. In 1902, Baker was brought to Johannesburg by the Rand Lords following the British victory in the Anglo-Boer War and included the Cape Dutch Gable on many homes on the Rand. Following Union in 1910, the Cape Dutch Revival style became very popular as a South African vernacular style. Unlike real Cape Dutch Architecture, the Cape Dutch Revival style is defined almost exclusively by ornate gables. The rise in popularity of the Cape Dutch Revival style led to a renewed interest in Cape Dutch architecture and many original Cape Dutch buildings were restored during this period.

Source From Wikipedia