Groot Constantia

‘Groot Constantia was a huge restoration project in the 1990s. Revel Fox was the appointed architect and Ian Ford was the appointed landscape architect.

Unlike Vergelegen, which is more floral, delicate and ‘pretty’ in its landscape, Groot Constantia is quite strong, robust and fundamental in its design, with its white walls, gravel, lawns and trees. Vergelegen was established by Willem Adriaan van der Stel, whereas Groot Constantia was established by his father, Simon van der Stel. The two estates are completely different in personality, but they have the same key elements of design.

At Groot Constantia you’ve got the secondary buildings framing and supporting the centrepiece, which is the manor house. In most farms, the flanking buildings are less elaborate – they’re designed to be subordinate. At Groot Constantia, they only occur on side of the ‘werf’ so as not to disturb the views down towards False Bay, but there’s still the framing of that werf space with the low walls, which are typically Cape Vernacular. Everything is aligned axially – along a central axis, and balanced about this axis. More important than the buildings themselves are the spaces they contain and frame – and their relationship to the broader landscape and the agricultural patterns beyond. Understanding how people settle and make place within that context and then applying this inderstanding in a contemporary sense is where design really comes into play. To me, this is where Ian Ford displays absolute genius.’ – David Gibbs