The project entailed the development of a new Primary School, replacing the dilapidated Botha’s Halte farm school, in the Breede River Valley, for the Bosjes Trust. Although a privately sponsored project, the school is operated by the Western Cape Education Department. The new buildings provide a state-of-the-art facility for 250 rural primary school learners from a predominantly farm worker community.
The buildings have been designed around sustainability principles, while respecting the cultural heritage of the area. A didactic design approach was followed, whereby these aspects are demonstrated throughout the complex as part of the teaching and educational processes. The “Anna Zaal” (circa 1927), the first school building on the property, was restored to act as the new front door to the school. It is accessed off a forecourt, as threshold between the public and private aspects of the complex.
The building complex fit seamlessly and sensitively into its context. The buildings are tucked into the landscape with an accessible planted roof, and the curved roof-scape imitating the rolling foothills of the Witzenberg Mountains, as backdrop to the complex. The external colours are all recessively dark with minimal bright accents around openings and entrances. In contrast, the “Anna Zaal” and the conical water and wind tower are both white. The “Anna Zaal” reflects the link with the white washed Cape building traditions of the past, and the tower represents a green and ecologically sustainable future.
The tower also references regionalist typologies such as the corbelled huts from Worcester and the Greater Karoo, and natural structures such as ant heaps, with its own ecological design lessons. In contrast, internally, the interiors are light with bright colours employed throughout, to stimulate creativity and to inspire intellectual and emotional development. Furniture and equipment have been purposely selected by the architects to this end. The buildings operate largely off the unreliable Escom grid, with solar and wind generator capacity provided – this is demonstrated to learners via prominent interactive displays. Storm water is harvested and stored in a reservoir under the buildings, from where the grounds are irrigated. This is topped up by a borehole as well as treated effluent from a sewerage package plant.
Accommodation includes an auditorium-type multipurpose hall, two specialist classrooms as well as a state of the art science laboratory. Additionally a discovery centre, is located central to the complex, as break out and audio-visual teaching space. All classrooms lead seamlessly out on to play areas, dedicated to specific learner age groups.
Externally, two Astro turf play areas are provided, one for older learners for formal and competitive play with spectator seating, and the other, a secure and intimate exploratory play area for younger learners with play equipment selected by the landscape architects for educational purposes. Two productive play areas are included – a lemon tree orchard and a productive vegetable garden, serving the school feeding scheme and also the Bosjes restaurant up the road. The school buildings demonstrate how contemporary technologies and inventive architectural design, can be employed to benefit rural South Africa.