TOPIC:            Explorations in vernacular architecture
SPEAKER:       Heinrich Wolff
DATE:              Tuesday, 16 October 2012
TIME:               20h00
VENUE:           The Athenaeum
Boundary Terraces, Newlands – at the intersection of Mariendahl & Campground Rds.

Heinrich Wolff will share with us his explorations and documentation of vernacular architecture.

In 2001 he bought a property in Bonnievale that had an old house on it, with an unknown history. Over the next two years he set out to educate himself about the Cape vernacular architecture. As the study progressed he focused on the houses of the Breede River valley around 1750 – 1850.

The house in Bonnievale is situated next to the old main road of Bonnievale. This fact necessitated an understanding of the road network of the Breede River valley and buildings of the old main road.
The original use of the building remains unclear, but several buildings of similar morphology were investigated.

Heinrich will share his process of measuring the building and his way of working through uncertainties to establish a greater level of understanding about a project.

The work in Bonnievale will be set in context of ideas developed on other heritage projects that he was involved in.

Professionally Heinrich is in practice with his wife Ilze. Together they run a design studio concerned with developing an architectural practice of consequence through the mediums of design, advocacy, research and documentation.

Heinrich’s work has been exhibited internationally, the most significant exhibitions being the Venice Biennale (2006 & 2010), the Sao Paulo Biennale (2005 & 2007) and the South American Architecture Biennale – Ecuador (2008).

In 2011 Heinrich was selected as the Designer of the Future by the Wouter Mikmak Foundation (Netherlands).
In 2007, he won the prestigious DaimlerChrysler Award for South African Architecture.
With Jo Noero, Heinrich received the Lubetkin Award in 2006 from the RIBA for the best building in the world (outside the EU) for the Red Location Museum of Struggle in Port Elizabeth. He has won several other international and South African awards for excellence in design, most notably for public buildings such as schools and hospitals.

Heinrich has taught at universities in South Africa and in the USA and currently holds an adjunct senior lectureship at the University of Cape Town.
He is also a founding member of Docomomo South Africa, an organisation dedicated to documentation and conservation of Modern Architecture.

Some of his heritage projects include the Patel House in Pageview, Johannesburg (1998), one of the few buildings to survive the forced removals, the development of the PELIP offices in Red Location, Port Elizabeth(1999), an adaptation of a prefabricated corrugated iron clad British Army building that became a ‘location’ building, 24 Alfred Street, Cape Town (2005), House Wolff in Observatory (2007) and the Isaacs House in Parkwood (2010), also a corrugated iron clad, Oregon Pine structure.


For news about a project to catalogue the archives, architecture and objects in the Lutheran Church, Strand Street, visit the website
And please DO indicate your interest in the project.


On behalf of all who enjoyed the Piketberg away weekend, a sincere thank you to Pat Kramer & Antonia Malan (and their spouses) for their heroic organisation, deeply informative tour notes & adaptability to circumstances beyond their control (the bus broke down). We will all be chipping in for a louder whistle for future excursions!