A new primary school building was designed by Meyer & Associates Architects Urban Designers to replace the dilapidated Botha’s Halte farm school, in the Breede River Valley, outside Cape Town.  Although the project was privately sponsored, it is a public school operated by the Western Cape Education Department. The new buildings provide a high-quality facility for 250 rural learners from a predominantly disadvantaged and poor farmworker 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 small first school building on the property, was restored to act as the entrance to the new school. It is accessed from a forecourt, acting as a threshold between the public and private aspects of the complex.

The buildings are tucked into the landscape, with an accessible planted roof and the remainder of the curved roof-scape imitating the rolling foothills of the surrounding Witzenberg Mountains. The external colours are recessively dark with bright accents around openings and entrances, to fit into the scenic landscape. In contrast, the historical “Anna Zaal” and the new conical water and wind tower are both white, to reflect the link with the white-washed Cape Dutch building traditions of the past, and to emphasise a green and ecologically sustainable future. The tower also references other regionalist heritage typologies, such as frontier corbelled huts from the area and natural structures such as ant heaps, with its own ecological design lessons.

The interiors, in contrast, are light with bright colours employed throughout, to stimulate creativity and inspire intellectual and emotional development. Furniture and equipment have been purposely selected by the architects to this end.   

The buildings operate largely independent from the unreliable public electricity grid, with solar and wind generating capacity – the benefit of this is demonstrated to learners via interactive displays. Stormwater 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 a fan-shaped multipurpose hall, three specialist classrooms as well as a state-of-the-art science laboratory. A centrally located discovery centre, with its distinct steel tree columns, acts as additional break-out and audio-visual teaching space. All classrooms lead seamlessly out on to play areas, dedicated to specific learner age groups.

Externally, two Astroturf 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. Two productive play areas are also 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 a rural disadvantaged community in South Africa.

What makes this project special?

The Botha’s Halte Primary School building is a sensitively designed educational building which both inspires and brings hope to a disadvantaged rural community. The project demonstrates that even rural schools in South Africa can get access to the best educational tools available and that a regionalist approach to architecture can deliver a building which both speaks to its context and its place in time. It is an original piece of architecture, which demonstrates through its unique layout, form and use of steel, how sustainability principles and cultural heritage can be incorporated into the pedagogy of educational buildings.

The interiors are light and bright and designed with the learner as the client in mind. A general openness and fluidity of interior spaces have been incorporated into the layout, compared to the insular and inward-looking layouts associated with the older schools in South Africa.      

The design team, together with the client have proactively aimed at implementing innovative solutions to pro-actively change the perspective and the future of these learners. This school serves as an educational outreach hub, from where the nearby University of Stellenbosch conduct teacher training and distance learning specialist classes to other outlying communities. This building serves as a model and case study for the development of future public rural schools in South Africa.  

The project demonstrates the innovative use of steel throughout. Roof trusses were manufactured from steel throughout the project, except in the restored Anna Zaal portion, where purpose made timber roof trusses were employed for heritage value. The steel trusses over the auditorium act as anchors to counterbalance the leaning curved wall which forms the backdrop to the auditorium. The expressive roofs are all covered in steel roof sheeting with immaculately detailed roof edges and eaves in folded metal.

The most spectacular aspect of the building complex is the tubular steel “tree columns”, found in the central Discovery Centre, which act as the central audio-visual and digital learning hub for the school. Not only does the tree columns reference the “tree of knowledge” idea but also has broader significance for rural learners where education may at times occur in the shade of trees in an informal manner. The four “tree columns”, each different in its configuration, are individually sculpted and constructed from tubular steel sections, fitted and welded together, to carry structurally, a large central concrete roof and planted roof above. Four light scoops pierce through the roof garden above, and light up the “tree columns” itself, similar to the light filtering through the tree canopy in a forest, to provide a soft even natural light quality to the Discovery Centre.

The application and use of Steel as material, has therefore played a major role in establishing this building as a future benchmark for rural educational projects in South Africa. 

Project motivation editorials are provided by the project nominator. If any technical details, company names or product names are incorrect, please notify the SAISC so that the error can be corrected.

Physical address of the project
Street Address

Botha’s Halte Primary School, Off R43 Botha Kelder, Worcester,
Western Cape, 6849
Google Maps link https://goo.gl/maps/ZN2E8NLTV7Pc5ET77  
Completion date of steelwork 1 February 2019
Completion date of the full project 1 September 2019
Tonnage and steel profiles used 45 Tonnes. Various profiles on circular steel tree columns, pergola, and structure.

Project Team



Meyer and Associates Architects, Urban Designers

Client/ Developer

Bosjes Trust


Meyer and Associates Architects, Urban Designers

Structural Engineer

Grobler and Associates

Electrical Engineer

Bührmann Consulting Engineers

Civil Engineer


Quantity Surveyor

2ii Consulting

Project Manager

Main Contractor

J J Dempers Group

Steelwork Contractor

Triomf Staal

Steelwork Contractor (Steel tree columns)

Link Engineering

Steel Erector

Triomf Staal

Cladding Manufacturer

Cladding Supplier

Cladding Contractor



Paintwork Contractor


Photographer, Photo competition

Adam Letch Photography

Photographer, Other submitted images

Meyer and Associates Architects, Urban Designers

If you were a part of this project, and your company details are incorrect or missing – please notify the SAISC so that the error can be corrected.