Jaco Booyens and SAOTA restored Buffelsdrift, an award-winning farm located west of Ladismith in the arid Klein Karoo region of South Africa. The restoration recently won the gold medal at the seventh edition of the international Domus Restoration and Conservation Award in Italy.
The restoration involved a cluster of Cape buildings in a valley beneath the Swartberg mountain range, consisting of the main house and two barns, plus a store. A short way off is a flat-roofed building, typical of the Ladismith style, which was originally used as a wine store. Other structures on the property include a contemporary shed, a cottage further up a hill, and a graveyard.
SAOTA director Greg Truen, who acquired the farm in 2016, noted that while minor additions and modern alterations had been made to the buildings, the original house, was 'in good condition, considering' and that the barns were 'fundamentally untouched.' In the main house, evidence of earlier refurbishments in the 1970s was stripped out, while a modern kitchen and bathrooms were inserted in an adaptive approach to conservation. A new pump house was added near the dam wall on the property. Its design and construction were an experiment in contemporary architecture using the same materials and techniques as the heritage buildings, including poured mud or 'cob' walls, as well as brick-vaulted roofs. The landscaping around the house took the form of a series of low terraces.
The front section of the house consists of a central living room with a bedroom on each side. The T-section included a dining area. While the front section had yellowwood beams and ceilings, the rafters in T-section were exposed. A lean-to section with a fireplace had been added in one of the elbows of the T using sundried bricks. It was being used as a kitchen.
Photography: Adam Letch