“Grondwater word hier gebruik”

January 18, 2014 § 3 Comments

Recently, I was lucky enough to visit the Cape region of South Africa, a mecca for plant nerds, and during my last couple hours in Capetown, I had the pleasure of visiting the studio of artist/designer, Porky Hefer, maker of suspended tree pods inspired by the nests of local weaver birds.

His studio is in part of a former farm compound in Oranjezicht, a neighborhood on the side of Table Mountain, within walking distance of downtown Capetown. Table Mountain is to Capetown what the Empire State Building is to New York City. It towers above the city with its top often bathed in a cloud. The changing appearance of mountain, light and rolling clouds provides a show I found endlessly inspiring. The mountain itself is even more awe-inspiring in that it is a world renowned center of biodiversity right in the middle of a very cosmopolitan city.

Table Mountain, seen from Oranjezicht

I was charmed by  a modest water feature next to the discrete entrance gate to Porky Hefer’s studio. The fountain was labeled with a sign that said ‘Grondwater word hier gebruik.’ Though not running, the fountain was built to feed into a brick-lined rill, and as I walked through the studio compound, I noticed the rill appearing mysteriously in other areas of the compound.

When Porky returned from his appointment, he filled me in on the whole narrative of this water. From the first water fountain, water flows into the rill that I first saw. Then it rounds a corner, runs under a door, through a corridor, and into a brick-lined watering hole from which horses once drank. After offering the animals a drink, it runs down a couple stairs, and fills a small courtyard pool, whose reflective surface picks up the movement of the wind. After this thoughtful pause, it flows through another corridor and under a wall to connected properties, where I supposed there were gardens or orchards to be watered.

I loved the sequential integration of direct streamflow into the daily activity of a farm-turned-studio.

Grondwater word hier gebruik

water flows into the rill, where it rounds a corner…

runs under a door, through a corridor….

and into a brick-lined watering hole from which horses once drank…

after offering the animals a drink, it runs into a small courtyard pool, whose reflective surface picks up the movement of the wind…

it flows through another corridor and under a wall to connected properties…

It ends up that springs that flowed from Table Mountain inspired Khoi people to call this area ‘Camissa,’ the ‘place of sweet waters’ (where sweet means drinkable). These springs are the reason Capetown developed here. Oranjezicht springs were among the first sources of water for Capetown. Though most of the springs were eventually routed underground, Table Mountain still supplies 5% of the city’s water. The water of Table Mountain is the source of drinking water at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, where it is treated with nothing more than ozone.

Reclaim Camissa is an initiative founded by Caron Von Zeil to bring to light and celebrate the Camissa water system. Its poetically named pilot project, Field of Springs, embodies the potential of urban waters to seamlessly bridge utilitarian, ecological, and cultural life. This project was included in Capetown’s successful bid to become  World Design Capital for 2014. With Capetown in the design community’s eye, it will be wonderful if this initiative can be brought closer to implementation and inspire visionaries in other cities.

This trip was funded by the Dangermond Travelling Fellowship through the Cal Poly Pomona Department of Landscape Architecture.

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§ 3 Responses to “Grondwater word hier gebruik”

  • david rowley says:

    Beautiful water feature! Frank Lloyd Wright had something very similar at the Hollyhock House in Barnsdale that most people including there own guides are unaware of. There is a Springhouse located behind the the art school that he built that flowed out in a similar style through narrow channels thhrough the home forming a moat around the fireplace and out to the reflecting pond then out to the olive orchard. It was still working in the 60s when we would wade around catching frogs and minnows admiring the view and water liliy blooms. The guides claim they had to stop it due to leaks and humidity levels in the home and they call the springhouse the pumphouse. It is still on the map as Spinghouse. The sight of my first tour as a kid walking in to a lit fireplace with water flowing around the stone art cemented his ideal to”Bbring the outside in through stone ,fire and water”. Hope this gets restored. David

  • Jane Tsong says:

    David, I love your comment. I love associating frogs, minnows and lilies with the olive orchard and Hollyhock house– such things make the architecture come alive. I wonder if there are any other buildings that a Creek Freak’s tour of iconic LA architecture would also include? Maybe the Neutra VDL house, with its (formerly) water-covered roof– you might suspect such a roof might attract wildlife….

    • david rowley says:

      I did not know Neutra’s VDL house had a reflecting pond roof! I had to find out more and I see there are free tours on Saturday 11-3 no appointments needed.
      Speaking of ponds,polywogs and lilies did you know that one of the Public Stairways in Beachwood Cyn had a series of ponds and waterfalls in the center. It is called Woodshire and it is the cover of a new great book. “Finding LA by foot” by Bob Inman. It seems the neighbors, the same people now wanting to cut off Hollywood Sign tourism and had the lights of the sign turned off were bothered by frogs croaking at night.So the city dewatered it and filled them in as planters. I say relight the sign it is iconic LA! Rewater and replant the Woodbury stairs. If the neighbors don’t like it move to gated communities as these are public streets and stairways. The Hollywood Sign belongs to the world not just a few neighbors. As Charles Fleming says ” These stairways are my beach” stop moving in and trying to close access. The Creek Freak has an article about these stairs and I have been looking for info on the water source as it does not look like it was recycled. Maybe there is a Hollywood Sign Spring running into a storm drain right now?

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