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.”

The story of how an urban farm changed a Cape Town community

Sheryl Ozinsky is a former manager of Cape Town Tourism, marine biologist and establisher of two recycling organisations. She’s now an urban farmer who grows multi-coloured rainbow chard under the shadow of Table Mountain, at the Oranjezicht City Farm she co-founded. She explains the importance of growing food in cities like Cape Town.

It was a long time ago (before my hair was grey) when I started working in tourism that I realised that I could combine my love for the city of Cape Town with my other love — a drive for sustainable development, improving the quality of our lives without it impacting negatively on future generations.

I care deeply about making a difference and can see how a small piece of land in Oranjezicht, where we grow food, has changed the character of our neighbourhood. People  work together at Oranjezicht City Farm to beautify, sustain and improve the area across boundaries of age, race and gender.

There is a palpable sense of pride and belonging that is flourishing in Oranjezicht alongside the beetroots and buchu. Importantly, we’ve created jobs, we’re helping to upskill people and we are hopefully inspiring people to make changes in their own lives, improve their health and well-being, and adopt sustainable lifestyles.

I am excited to work with many other farmers and communities beyond Oranjezicht City Farm to create a more just and secure local food economy. The wish is to find ways to ensure that all Cape Town residents — rich and poor — have a fair chance of getting wholesome, affordable, nutritious food onto their plates every day.

At Oranjezicht City Farm we have realised that the shared language of food is a unifier, bringing people together who would not previously have interacted. We notice relationships developing between our black and white farm workers and our residents when people bring their bokashi (Japanese for fermented organic matter) compost buckets to the farm week after week. We feel joy when learners from across the city from economically advantaged and disadvantaged schools visit the farm. We are humbled when volunteers of all ages who are white, black and coloured work together selling fresh produce at Market Day or planting heirloom cabbages.

We’ve seen a diverse group of peoples’ lives change and individuals enriched. Growing heirloom vegetables is addictive, but growing a community — now that is worth getting very excited about!

We hope that one day our farm and a multitude of other urban farms will meld into the fabric of Cape Town, the presence of our work becoming as regular as the work of bankers, teachers and people working on the side of the road.

I dream that one day urban farming will not be a struggle, but an intentional component of the city’s food system. Abundant farm plots will pop up in every neighbourhood and corner shops and markets will be able to proudly say they carry produce grown right down the street.

Oranjezicht City Farm and other urban farms will have rich, deep soil with compost made from residents’ kitchen waste. There will be communal greenhouses that grow healthy seedlings for urban farmers who grow salad greens, tomatoes and herbs year round.

People will walk past empty plots that are often eyesores, not ignoring them, but converting them into places that feed, enhance and beautify neighbourhoods. Retailers will label locally farmed foods, such as that coming from the Philippi Horticultural Area, so that consumers can choose this food over produce that has come from further afield.

And more than anything, we hope that growing food will enable people to change their ideas about how a city feels and what is possible in an urban environment.

This bustling market serves up fresh bounty from the Oranjezicht City Farm

With city farming on the rise, the Oranjezicht City Farm and its popular Saturday market is at the cutting edge of sustainable produce in Cape Town.

Set high on the mountain slopes above the centre of Cape Town, the Oranjezicht City Farm transformed a derelict sportsfield into a bountiful urban farm, revitalising urban space and providing employment.

When red tape got in the way of their successful produce market, locals breathed a sigh of relief when new premises were found alongside the V&A Waterfront shopping precinct.

So although the Oranjezicht Farmers’ Market is no longer located at the farm that inspired it, you can expect the same ethos throughout this scenic seaside market. The market takes place every Saturday from 09h00 to 14h00 and offers a wonderful mix of food to take home and dishes to enjoy on site.

Local artisanal produce reigns supreme here, with fresh vegetables from the farm, handmade cheeses and a wealth of pickles, preserves and cured goods to add to your holiday picnic pantry. The fresh artisanal breads are excellent too.

This market attracts a more laidback gathering and is usually less crowded than the Neighbourgoods market in Woodstock, one of Cape Town’s oldest suburbs on the Eastern Boulevard. Plus, the sea views are hard to beat and there’s even free Wi-Fi.