Located beside the tranquil waters of Klein River Lagoon overlooking the green slopes of the Maanschynkop Mountains, Coot Club offers an eclectic mix of traditional stone cottages and contemporary-line boathouses that blend seamlessly into the natural environment. A stone’s throw from the bird-rich Walker Bay Nature Reserve and just a fifteen-minute drive from Stanford village, the conservation-focussed precinct takes eco-tourism to a whole new level. Let’s step inside the award-winning Cape-based Kritzinger Architects’ inspired design in the Overberg…
Property size: 464 hectares
Boathouse size: 250 m2
Completed: August 2022 (5 months)
Location: Provincial Road, Wortelgat Rd, Stanford, Western Cape
The brief from the client was to establish a unique lifestyle, membership club type of family retreat that would rekindle the spirit of adventure in us all. A place where people can enjoy the simple things in life, and children can flourish, play, and grow in a spectacular natural environment. One of the key considerations for the architects was to design accommodation for both shareholder and tourism/guest use. The aim was to build budget-driven, cost-conscious spaces with an open-plan living, dining, and kitchen concept and exceptional lagoon views. Kritzinger Architects built three three-bedroom, two-bathroom boathouses and one one-bedroom boathouse, all single storey.
Conceptually, the architects sought to create a contextually appropriate design response that would reflect waterside living through the use of building forms that relate to the traditional boat sheds found along Klein River and other lagoon estuaries in the area. The intent was to contrast the new with the old and not to emulate the existing building typology.
Existing buildings, such as the historic Spookhuis, are generally monolithic and traditional in design, comprising primarily stone construction set on concrete foundations within the earth. The new design, on the other hand, offers a more ecological design approach by striving to minimise the build impact on the natural environment. This is achieved by raising the building platform above natural ground level and with an eco-friendly pile cap system. The overall weight of the building was minimised by using a lightweight modular timber structure clad with traditional Victorian-profile corrugated iron.
The architects wanted each new building form to read as a collection of small boathouses built alongside each other, rather than as a large single building with a big footprint. The advantage of this approach is that the scale and massing of the building is reduced while at the same time allowing natural light to penetrate the open spaces between the units, thereby encouraging the natural vegetation to grow as ‘green lungs’ through and around the buildings. This further enhances the feeling of living in nature and reduces the visual impact of the building through vegetative growth.
Unpacking the design
Coot Club intentionally follows eco-sensitive design principles so as to be very ‘light on the earth’. The inspiration for the architecture was derived from the humble corrugated iron boat sheds found in the area, with particular reference to scale, form, and simplicity of construction. The design offers an ecological approach, by striving to minimise the build impact on riverine vegetation.
The architectural language embraces a nautical theme by incorporating elements such as porthole windows, decking, and timber construction reminiscent of traditional boat building techniques. The boathouses are well spaced apart within the landscape to ensure privacy, while at the same time offering easy access to the Spookhuis precinct.
Part of the development strategy was to conserve the magnificent milkwood trees in the Spookhuis area and to plant additional milkwood trees on the property, focussing on the development area along the water’s edge as well as key access routes. The alien vegetation was removed and replaced with indigenous planting.
The horizontal building form has the advantage of being able to follow the natural contours of the land. This offered flexibility during construction as it allowed each of the units within the overall building form to be set out independently according to the contours, thereby morphing the building into the landscape. In addition to this, the pitched roofs serve to minimise the visual impact through a broken architectural roofscape as opposed to one single roof span. Therefore, rather than a large mass of lighting that would come from a single building form, the broken building form with its undulating roof scape gives the visual impression of ‘lanterns’ in the landscape. This ‘lantern’ effect reduces the scale of light when viewed at night from a distance, minimising the impact of potential light pollution.
The weathered colours, tones, and textures of the corrugated iron façades were carefully considered to soften the visual impact when viewed from a distance and to give the impression that the buildings are part of the landscape. To mitigate the boathouses’ visual impact even further, the buildings were designed to be single-storey and placed on low-impact posts and beams to minimise the amount of disrupted soil and to maximise nature’s ability to live around and under the structures.
Each boathouse is uniquely furnished and painted in a palette of sailboat-inspired colours that reflect the environment and enhance the spirit of boathouse living. Internal wall cladding comprises vertical tongue and groove South African pine timber panels, which are painted. No skirtings or cornices were used, keeping the design simple and authentic — true to traditional boathouse style.
MEET THE TEAM
Client: Coot Club
Architects: Kritzinger Architects
Interior designers: Dominic Touwen Design and Camilla Fraser Design
Planning consultants: Plan Active
Quantity surveyors: Rider Levett Bucknall
Engineers: Gadomski Consulting Engineers
Electrical engineers: Hermanus Trading & Electrical
Fire consultants: De Villiers & Moore, Barend Esterhuizen
Wet services and plumbing: Walker Bay Plumbers
Main contractor: T&B Log Homes