A Cellar Taking Its Cue From Nature

A first trip to the Cederberg in 2012 for business partners Caroline Sohie and Leszek Dobrovolsky, who run INSTINCT an architectural practie in London, led to a serendipitous meeting with David and Cisca Nieuwoudt. They visited the farm to taste wine after a strenuous six days of hiking in the rugged mountains, a remarkable experience for them. A few discussions later that same year and the cellar upgrade project was underway.  

“Architecture for us needed to support the wine and not the other way around. And we had these very philosophical discussions with David and Ciska at the start. The approach was to keep it humble and let the wine speak for itself and the mountains too, not the architecture…

“The cellar was a real assemblage of buildings that had been built through the generations. So what we conceptualised was how to create the most cost-effective way to ‘wrap’ these buildings in effect… So that’s the journey we started on,” explains Leszek.

Embracing David’s trademark ‘’n boer maak ’n plan’ attitude, a local team was formed and 120 000 bricks were cut by hand in eight months. Due to the special shape of the bricks, the shadow on the wall changes during the course of the day. The massive doors were assembled on-site and the mild steel was left outside to weather, creating a rusty effect, before being installed. Lines cut into the wall and filled with black pebbles tell the story of the Nieuwoudt family and where they came from.

In the tasting room, air recycled from the barrel cellar, visible behind a glass wall, is used to cool the venue via grids at the top of the wall. Salvaged cedar wood planks from a nearby farm were used to make the angled tasting stands. The feature wall at the back room was created using smooth river pebbles, collected by grape pickers and children on the farm, and reflecting the river bed.

Sliding screens that offer protection from the heat were made of timber from nearby Citrusdal. Local sandstone was used to form seating between the glass of the barrel cellar and wine tasting room.

“It was a very hands-on project, very tangible and very enjoyable, because local folk were involved in it,” comments Leszek.

While the major part of the project has been completed, work is ongoing, including cladding a shed and linking it to the cellar complex.

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