A restoration of Kerala Farm
Nestled in the picturesque Bainskloof valley, the Kerala Farm emerged from a once ordinary homestead, redesigned to embrace a new lifestyle that harmonises with its surroundings. In 2021, the team at KLG Architects took charge of this project, elevating not just the farmhouse itself, but also collaborating with Oasis Design and Nick Hampton to revitalise the entire landscape. By prioritising water management and sustainability, Kerala Farm embarked on a journey towards humble luxury, merging beauty and environmental consciousness.
Photographer: Keri Paddock & Nick Hampton
In the quest to restore and transform the property, KLG Architects listened to the valley itself, translating its vastness into an architectural vision. They extended the wings from the existing square-plan courtyard house, adding a new wing on the southern side to embrace the local flora and capture the spectacular private mountain views. The design, with its sleek and contemporary aesthetic, introduces a fresh identity through its simple form and box-like appearance.
On the northern side, a new, external living room was added, characterised by a grand monolithic stone wall seamlessly integrated into the landscape. The result is a spine that acts as the starting point of the new lifestyle wing. With the inclusion of robust timber sections, the space gracefully transitions towards the lush lawn and inviting pool area. Here, a meticulously crafted design conjures a series of dappled shaded spaces, essential for the unforgiving sun that dominates this region.
After Oasis Design was approached by the owners of the farm, Keri and Sam Paddock, and Nick started to develop his designs, he felt he needed to give his sketches a name, and so an unofficial title emerged – ‘The Journey to Mapacha’, incorporating the name Mapacha which the Paddocks chose for the cottage. The name stuck, and today a signpost stands tall upon the farm, proudly displaying its identity for all to see, honouring the exquisite cottage that was expertly designed and restored by KLG Architects.
After spending months designing, developing, and building the gardens for the farm, the clients approached Oasis Design once again to see what could be done with a large piece of open land situated between the main house and the Mapacha cottage. Along with its inherent potential, the land also posed a challenge that piqued their curiosity. In winters past, runoff from the surrounding mountains would naturally make its way into the area and cause flooding. It was clear there had been previous attempts to divert the water away from the buildings, but this only redirected the flooding to other parts of the farm.
However, this predicament sparked an innovative idea. Deciding that it would be foolish to try and work against nature and gravity, they chose to attempt to use the space to hold the excess runoff – allowing it to slowly seep back into the earth and recharge the ground water. Since the ground was already undulating, they looked at the existing mounds and depressions across the area and, rather than try to create new levels, they worked to use the existing ones to their advantage, taking their cue from what was already occurring naturally. By enhancing the existing depressions, furrows, and mounds, what they essentially created was a series of berms and swales – a basic and effective agricultural concept that has been employed for centuries.
Now when the farm experiences heavy rainfall, runoff that was previously problematic is slowly channelled downhill through subtle, permeable furrows cut into the land. Excess water that is not absorbed by the earth on its way downhill will be collected by one of the little ‘ponds’ that were fashioned, again by simply exaggerating the natural depressions of the land. From here, the water slowly infiltrates into the ground, being taken up by plantings on the adjacent berms and recharging the groundwater in the process, replacing the need for an irrigation system in the area.
Once the space was working successfully, it also needed to have recreational value. Beyond the boosted sustainability, the owners and their visitors also needed to be able to enjoy the space up close (without getting their feet wet). The Oasis Design team built a simple timber boardwalk suspended above the land. Not only does this allow them to get from the main house to the cottage without taking the long way around, but it also provides a little adventure, as the boardwalk subtly snakes its way through fynbos and wetland, and berm and swale.
Like many journeys, the one that leads to Kerala honours the history of the farm while leaving by the wayside the practices that no longer serve it. A careful consideration of the characteristics of the land meant the project could be transformed by a kindness that channels into the beauty of the build, representing an effortless co-existence that makes all the difference.