‘De Volkskombuis’ originated in 1902 as worker’s cottages designed by Sir Herbert Baker for Cecil John Rhodes. In 1968 the property was acquired by Historical Homes of South Africa who restored and leased it as a restaurant which closed its doors in 2010. After this the building stood vacant and derelict to an extent for some years. In 2017 a full restoration was initiated by them again, and today De Volkskombuis runs as a restaurant once more.
Our brief was to breathe new life into this historically important building, so that it could be reintroduced in a modern idiom as the iconic landmark it used to be.
Our design decision was to painstakingly restore and renew the historical section of the building and to demolish and replace the unsympathetic, lean-to service structures added on in the seventies. The challenge was to not overshadow the old gabled structure with the new additions, but to take reference from it in a contemporary language.
The visual entrance axis creates a transition between the old and the new, respecting the gables by exposing them to the inside through glass roofs.
The historic outer shell allowed for high ceiling-ed restaurant areas, bringing volume into spaces that had previously been low ceiling-ed, small, dark rooms. The fireplace alcoves which were once kitchen hearths were restored, all doors and windows were kept and restored, lime plaster was re-applied to the walls which had been wrongly treated with cement plaster previously, and new yellow wood timber floors and ceilings were installed.
New verandahs were added to create outside dining space and open air dining areas under the age old oak trees were restored, giving importance to the river edge which was landscaped with indigenous plants.
The walled kitchen gardens of the original cottages were replanted to emphasize the historical significance of the original purpose of the building.
Our aim to respect, protect and restore historically important buildings in a language which is accessible and functional in a contemporary lifestyle.
photography by wil punt of peartree photography