Welgevonden Game Reserve forms part of the Waterberg Biosphere in the Limpopo Province of South Africa and is one of the most accessible premier malaria-free wilderness reserves in the country. The reserve is home to the ‘big five’ and over 130 different mammal species, 350 bird species, more than 2000 different plant species and is best known for its fascinating and rare ancient rock formations and layers of sandstone mountain ridges and ravines.



57 Waterberg is an existing private game lodge originally constructed in the early 2000’s in the familiar wooden pole and thatch vernacular. In respectful contrast, the contemporary 2019 extension and renovation project which includes five new luxury guest suites, an upgraded main lounge and entrance foyer, new and expanded chefs kitchen, laundry and various other ancillary functions envisioned a ‘new dawn’ where the buildings become secondary to the guest experience – a place where the landscape and natural surroundings come first.

The conceptual ‘IDEA’ for this project was based on creating a space that ‘celebrates’ the context, one that appears as if it is the refinement and revelation of the land. The aim is to capture the unique qualities of the ‘place’ – essentially creating a new nature where the buildings ‘merely facilitates’ visitors to experience the untamed African bush.

“Architecture is not based on concrete and steel, and the elements of the soil. It’s based on wonder.” – Daniel Libeskind

These new structures, and particularly the new guest suites, aren’t meant to be looked at, but to be looked out from.

More than anything, these spaces are sheltered viewing platforms. The focus is on the overwhelming presence of the layers of mountains, the natural bushveld, the countless animals, and the endless open space

Due to very strict time constraints in combination with the remote location the complete construction process was based on separating all the various trades and planning for offsite manufacturing and on-site assembly – connecting and completing like an intricate three-dimensional puzzle.

All building elements and components were further designed and planned as ‘single trade and unfinished’ – an approach that ensured the most direct and honest construction assembly.

What is the purpose of the structure/ project?

Welgevonden Game Reserve is a 36,000 Hectare Big Five private game reserve, with abundant wildlife, in the Waterberg District, of the Limpopo Province of South Africa. A 2.5-hour drive, or an easy 45-minute flight from Johannesburg into one of the airstrips, makes Welgevonden one of the most accessible premier malaria-free wilderness reserves in South Africa.

“It was wildest, untouched Africa, and it was magic” – Jane Goodall

The target market and purpose for the project is absolutely focussed on local and international tourism.

The primary design focus was on creating ‘a place’ that would allow ‘MAN’ to meet the ‘MOUNTAIN’

Beyond the rational and functional design this project aims to trigger and facilitate an emotional or spiritual awakening to the African landscape

What was the brief to the architect?

New accommodation requirements as per client brief:

Five new freestanding luxury guest suites

New guest ‘arrival space’ – entrance foyer and reception desk

Renovation of existing main lodge structure including new chef’s kitchen, laundry, bar and terrace with recessed fire pit

Master planning of where all functions needed to be positioned and particularly the guest suites, all circulation walkways, privacy of guests and overall focus on and connection to the landscape

Construction period time constraint of only 14 weeks for the complete project from the day the last guests departed, and the day first new guests arrived – ALL construction needed to be completed within this limited available time.

** This submission is focussed on the new guest suites**

Was the project envisaged in steel from the start? If not – why was it built in steel in the end?

On the practical side the project design and execution was driven by an extremely short construction period of only 14 weeks – this coupled with the remote location lead to the unique approach of isolating each building element to allow not only off-site manufacturing but more importantly simultaneous processes – with each trade ( puzzle piece ) or building element being manufactured to extremely accurate specifications in isolation and then fitting into the full assembly on site.

The primary steel frame serves as the skeleton or backbone onto which all other components or building elements connect. This project and construction approach would not be possible without the structural stability and accuracy that steel provides.

Give a brief description of the structural framing. What type of sections were used and why?

Primary column profile                  –              225 x 225 x 6 SHS

The oversized 225 SHS profiles allowed easy integration with modules and scale required by either 220mm clay brick infill walls or 3 track Palace aluminium sliding door systems.

Primary floor beam profile           –              254 x 146 x 31 I Beam

The maximum spans and cantilevers, which reinforced the idea of a floating structure, determined these profile sizes.

Roof / RC Slab edge profile           –              305 x 102 x 25 I Beam

The cast in-situ ( mixed on site ) reinforced concrete slab with all required falls and edge detailing determined the structural depth of the 305 I beam. This profile effectively serves as permanent formwork for the floating roof canopy.

Tell more about fabrication and erection process if it was complex, difficult, innovative etc. What is most impressive about this project from a technical perspective?

Besides the time constraints and the huge importance of accuracy for the structure additional challenges for the project was around how all elements/components would be transported to site and how it would be placed in position and assembled.

All building components and material needed to fit onto smaller vehicles due to the narrow and rough access roads to the site. Assembly was mostly done with manual/physical labour and all connection points and scale of components had to work around these limitations.

The most impressive aspect about these structures is how ‘simple’, precise and easy it all appears as it ‘floats’ above the landscape as a fully completed project.

How does this project demonstrate the benefits of steel as a material?
The success of this project hinged on two crucial attributes or benefits of using steel – Structural stability and quick, accurate off-site manufacturing.

The ‘lightweight’ construction made it possible to complete the project, with substantial integrity, around a primary frame or ‘skeleton’

What is special/ unusual/ innovative/ aesthetic about the steelwork in this project?

The primary construction material for the project is mild steel profiles, which ‘touch the earth lightly’ and shape the skeleton or mainframe onto which all the other building components attach

Secondary materials include cast in situ reinforced concrete for the ‘floating’ roofs, Wooden decking for the floors, ceilings and terraces, Aluminium and glass for the shopfronts.

The furniture, which was designed on the matching principle as the main room structure, is based on the same use of trades, materials and assembly process

A very unique design aesthetic of the project is therefore the approach that ALL built forms, from primary structure to the smallest furniture piece, is designed and manufactured with the principal of having a ( visible ) STRUCTURAL STEEL FRAME or skeleton onto which and around which all secondary trades and finishes attach.

How did the project team work together (e.g. contractor involved early, challenges/ ease of communication etc.)

Given the extremely limited construction period and the absolute accuracy that was required to successfully complete the project there was a huge amount of co-ordination and positive project team management required. All designs had to be 100% confirmed and completed, with all trades and role players to full completion taken into consideration, before any manufacturing on the primary structure could commence.

The typical construction process often allows various ‘inaccuracies’ that would in theory be ‘fixed’ by the next trade….. This project however required that all trades commenced with manufacturing of ALL building elements at basically the same time – This meant that while the concrete footings were cast on site the main steel frame, the aluminium doors, toughened glass panels, wooden floor beams, crystalite shower floors, bathroom vanity concrete tops and various other was being manufactured. Complete ‘faith’ in the design accuracy was required and this can only be achieved if all role players work together with a common goal.

All professional consultants, the main contractor ( who’s ‘can do attitude’ made a HUGE impact ) and various sub-contractors came together around this ‘common goal’ and the success is a credit to fantastic team work.

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
Google Maps link https://g.page/FiftySevenWaterberg?share  
Completion date of steelwork 19 July 2019
Completion date of full project 31 August 2019
Tonnage and steel profiles used 73 Tonnes  Columns 224SHS Roof I beams 102 x 305 Floor I beams 146 x 254 / 200 IPE
Project Team Role Company
Nominator W design architecture studio cc
Client/ Developer Welgevonden Lodge (Pty) Ltd t/a 57 WATERBERG 
Architect W design architecture studio cc
Structural Engineer Struxit Projects Pty Ltd
Engineer Struxit Projects Pty Ltd
Quantity Surveyor Welgevonden Lodge (Pty) Ltd t/a 57 WATERBERG 
Project Manager W design architecture studio cc
Main Contractor Frans Smith Building Services
Steelwork Contractor Snyman Staalwerke cc
Steel Erector Snyman Staalwerke cc
Corrosion Protection Frans Smith Building Services
Paintwork Contractor Frans Smith Building Services

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.