4 architectural gems worth visiting

Architect Stuart Hermansen, who specialises in restorations of heritage buildings, shares four of his favourite historical buildings in Cape Town and its surrounds.

“I worked on the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Strand Street a couple of years ago, and this came as a great surprise to me: if you go inside the building and go on a guided tour, they take you up into the roof. There’s a spiral stair and the roof structure is huge! It’s made out of old ships’ masts. If you’ve got a head for heights, it’s worth asking for a guided tour of the whole place – you’ll get to see little back courtyards and things like that. It’s incredible.

The Centre for the Book in Queen Victoria Street is also worth visiting. It’s beautiful! It’s a library now, so you can go during office hours. It was the first university campus building in South Africa, then it was the Cape Archives for a long time before it became the Centre for the Book. I think it’s an incredibly well-designed building and beautifully crafted.

I find it very interesting that one of the few well-preserved Cape farms is the Valkenberg farmhouse on the banks of the Liesbeek River at Valkenberg. It is well restored and is one of the few Cape farms in the city precinct that is intact. I’m not sure what the farmhouse is now, but it is a treat to just walk around the outside. The barn, where you’ll find the Wild Fig Restaurant, is also an interesting early pioneer building.

But the best kept secret in terms of Cape farms is a farm called Welvanpas in Wellington. This farm, which has been in the Retief family since the 18th century, is near the old Baines Kloof pass. When I went there for the first time I thought to myself: this should be a national heritage site. It’s completely authentic and the buildings and the precinct is just beautiful. It’s not very touristy – you can do wine tasting and there’s a mountain bike trail – but it’s fantastic.”

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