Cape Dutch Architecture: Achieved by Architect, Artisan or Artist?

By:
Dr Matilda Burden
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The purpose of this paper is to investigate the artistic aspects of the Cape Dutch gable and the factors that contributed to this feature. These may include people, tools, material, natural environment and political and economical issues. The Cape Dutch style of architecture is found in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. The point of departure is that this product is a work of art, but the process of becoming that is not so obvious. Research questions that will be adressed are: Why did this specific form of architecture manifest at the Cape of Good Hope in the early 18th century? What were the contemporary styles in Europe that may have influenced Cape architecture? Who were the artisans? Who were the designers or architects? Which were the tools and building materials used for creating the gable, the most distinguishing feature of the Cape Dutch homestead? What in the Cape gable constitutes art?

The best examples of Cape Dutch gables represent the Baroque, Rococo and Neo-Classical styles in a simplified, localised version. Stimulated by Hans Fransen’s comment that Cape gables ‘…tell the full story of a fascinating and suprisingly rich folk art’, I will attempt to indicate how the centre gable of the Cape Dutch house not only served a practical purpose, but also became a work of art.


Keywords: Architecture, Cape Dutch, South Africa, Gables, Artisans, Folk Art, Stucco
Stream: Art in Communities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Dr Matilda Burden

Senior Lecturer, Department of History 
(Division Cultural History), University of Stellenbosch

South Africa

Senior Lecturer at University of Stellenbosch. Teach Cultural History to postgraduates and act as promoter for MA- and DPhil-candidates. Special fields of interest are architecture, furniture and intangible culture, especially folksongs, vernacular language (Afrikaans) and South African place names. I also obtained a qualification in archival science and worked previously as state archivist. My current job includes work at the University Museum, doing research and designing exhibitions on aspects of local history and presenting lectures to the public. Additionally I assist communities with the establishment of heritage centres or museums. I attended and presented papers at several national and international conferences and act as speaker throughout South Africa on different aspects of cultural history and folklore, also on radio and television. Published work concentrated on folk songs, old Cape furniture and the theory of Cultural History. Several talks and lectures were presented on Cape Dutch architecture. I serve (or have recently served) on a number of councils and committees relating to South African culture and heritage, on national, provincial and local levels.

Ref: A06P0415