Diverse factors have influenced building styles in
SA, climate, social structure and the economy. Years ago when some raw materials were unavailable, ingenious devices were
thought of. Bardbiesbuisie (hard-reed house), a pitched roof shelter built on the ground and the beehive shaped huts, built
of stone were used.
Most traditional houses often called Rondavels are
round in shape with roofs of tightly woven reed or grass thatch, while the walls are made of mud mixed with cow dung or animal
hide. These were well insulated and rain could not get in.
These are stick frameworks erected by the men and
the women thatch them.
These are made of mats by the Khoina nomads and are
covered in hide or mats on a stick frame.
These are the most eyecatching style. The walls are
rectangular structures and are painted by women using bright paints. No stencils are used for the motifs.
The vernacular of the western cape, recognized by its symentrical design and gables, evolved around the mid 18th
century from a simple row of thatched rooms whose sizes depended on the length of the available beams. The forms of the gables
were derved from the Baroque architecture of Holland. End
gables prevented the roof from being torn off by high winds while the central gable let light into the attic.
These had plain front pediments and flat roofs and
survive along the narrow cobbled streets of Cape Towns Bo-Kaap or Malay quarter. The neighbourhood of artificers square in
Grahamstown also has fine examples of the houses. These have many paned sliding sash windows, plain parpets and a fan light
above the entrance.
This romatic style with its decorative cast-iron detail,
brass fittings and stained glass windows became extremely popular especially in Cape
town. Here too terrace housing, pioneered in the 18th century provided affordable housing
for the middle class. You can find examples of these in Woodstock,
Observatory, Mowbray and Wynberg.