Home Bosjes Chapel Bosjes Chapel, poetry of form in the Breede River Valley

Bosjes Chapel, poetry of form in the Breede River Valley

The pièce de la resistance of the Breedekloof

by capetowndiva


In the past three years since I wrote this piece for the Sunday Times, I’ve met Coetzee Steyn in person and I’m delighted to say that the Bosjes Chapel he designed has picked up numerous accolades including being featured in the Architizer/Phaidon hardback:  ‘The Best Architecture in the World’ (so on my birthday gift list!) BlankInkDesign also produced a beautifully hand drawn poster last year that features some of the most iconic architecture throughout South Africa with BOSJES in that number.

The chapel taken from the side, near the old apple tree

Zaha Hadid once said that architecture should be able to “excite you, calm you and make you think”. The newly completed Bosjes Chapel does just that and is arguably the pièce resistance of the Breede River Valley.

From the road below it looks like a wave of white and interpretations are many. Taking it in from the front, it seems to hover, the svelte slopes of the dome and curved tips like a peak of meringue. Wherever your imagination takes you, the chapel is a masterpiece. 


Coetzee Steyn is the visionary behind the structure that is located on the R43 towards Ceres on a family owned working farm called Bosjes, meaning Little Bushes. Based in London with his firm Steyn Studio, he worked closely on the complex project with TV3 Architects and Henry Fagan + Partners in Cape Town. Throughout the two-year construction period, constant communication between all parties and regular site inspections ensured that the client’s brief was meticulously upheld. Steyn was tasked with designing a place of worship and locale underpinned by Psalm 36:7, “how priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings,” a verse that adds poetry to the form. Looking for simplicity, he drew some inspiration from the Moravian mission churches of the 1800’s in Mamre and Wupperthal, their white lit interiors and absence of papal paraphernalia evoking lightness and tranquillity. The same energy envelops the chapel, a suffusion of calm in a perfect setting. 

Take a walk up the Mount Sinai koppie for a bird’s eye view of the white wave that is the chapel, and the striking water feature that represents the parting of the red sea, created by Herman de Lange of cndv landscape architects


Photo by Adam Letch

The undulations of the cast iron roof give the building its fluidity, complementing the curls of ‘holbol’ gables so typical of old Cape Dutch manor houses and in sync with the style of the original Bosjes farmhouse that was built in1790 and still stands today, beautifully restored.  The ripple effect also echoes the peaks and valleys of the nearby mountain ranges and the raised tips on each side reaching up into the sky give the impression of wings in motion. At dusk, the chapel looks like it’s floating, an illusion created in part by two strategically positioned reflection ponds out front and by its slight elevation on a plinth that adds to the sense of weightlessness.


Steyn wanted the 120 seater chapel to have a tactile quality to it. “I have strong childhood memories of running my hands along the powdery uneven lime washed walls of my grandfather’s farmhouse,” he said. The smooth exterior definitely elicits that response from many. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow for the shifting play of natural light and frame the dreamy views over the surrounding vineyards and gardens. When designing the latter, Herman de Lange of cndv landscape architects incorporated water features, pergolas, pathways and atmospheric lighting into an environment encouraging exploration and contemplation. Each space is a subtle reference to Biblical elements or events such as the huge water feature that’s symbolic of the Parting of the Red Sea and the winding walkway up the koppie called Mount Sinai that overlooks the entire property.

The interior, designed by Liam Mooney, is uncluttered, with pew type seating drawing focus to the windows and the spectacular outlook.  Mooney also did the décor for the Kombuis restaurant and Die Skuur, the luxurious guest house that is currently under expansion.

A Bosjes Chapel encounter is like a religious experience unto itself. An ode to the Divine  and a celebration of creation. 

The BOSJES Chapel and gardens, Kombuis restaurant, Die Spens, Teetuin and Winkel is open to the public from Wednesdays to Sundays. Die Skuur guesthouse and Die Stalle spa are open Monday to Sunday. All enquiries and bookings can be made via 023.0040496 /  www.bosjes.co.za.

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