Stellenbosch University’s oldest academic building restored

Stellenbosch University’s oldest academic building restored

Die Ou Hoofgebou in Stellenbosch was recently restored by Indawo Painting and Waterproofing.

Stellenbosch, the oldest town in the country, is steeped in history and is home to the University of Stellenbosch.

The oldest academic building on the campus, the Ou Hoofgebou (Old Main Building), was inaugurated in November 1886, nearly six years after its corner stone was laid in December 1880.

The Ou Hoofgebou was conceptualised at the time of the bicentenary of Stellenbosch in 1879. The community wanted to erect a monument to commemorate the town’s inception 200 years before, and it was decided to build a grand new college building. The importance of education to the community and the country was already apparent in Stellenbosch at the time, a philosophy that continues today.

Reverend JH Neethling provided the land and commissioned German architect, Carl Otto Hager, to design the new building. Hager, renowned for his design of the neo-Gothic styled Moederkerk (Mother Church), created a new masterpiece in a style that would become known as Cape Classical. Initially named the Victoria College from 1887 to the founding of the University of Stellenbosch in 1918, the fine façade includes a pediment depicting the institution’s coat of arms supported by lions, a colonnaded veranda and an ornamental balcony.

Painting and waterproofing professionals, Indawo Painting and Waterproofing, recently restored parts of the building’s exterior structures to ensure its beauty remains protected.

Indawo managing director, Peter Jäck, says: “The spotlight is on restoring our heritage and this means taking care of historical structures that are still in use today. Modern demands on old buildings tend to take their toll and strategic maintenance policies are essential to ensure the longevity of these buildings. Restoration methodologies take into account the age of a building, the climate in which it stands and the stresses it is placed under through continued and increased use.

“Stellenbosch has a typical Mediterranean climate and its effect on buildings is often underestimated. Daytime temperatures during the dry summer months reach above 30 degrees Celsius with the warmest months being from January to March. The cool, rainy months are during winter with daytime temperatures generally between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius. Nearly three quarters of the average rainfall of about 750mm falls between April and September each year.

“The harsh climate is one of the main causes of building deterioration. With many of the country’s oldest buildings still standing in this region, it is critical that restorers preserve the history as well as the structure. Some of the elements in many of our historical structures demand specific attention to avoid further deterioration. Technologically advanced processes and products are designed to preserve structures that were built using older technology and materials. The detail in design of many of our oldest buildings displays their character and it is critical that these elements are preserved, especially when we need to replace these intricate structures. Maintaining the aesthetics is as critical as ensuring the structure remains safe and secure.”

As the building has been exceptionally well maintained by the university, the scope of the restoration project was not extensive and only needed superficial repairs and repairs. However, areas on the roof structure damaged by water ingress had to be repaired and new waterproofing membranes applied. Repairs commissioned included:

Removal and replacement of existing moisture-damaged wooden fascia boards.

Replacement of existing mouldings with more durable and weather resistant fibreglass mouldings. This required the manufacture of rubber moulds, ensuring precise design detail of each, to prepare new fibreglass mouldings to fit in with the patina of the building.

Waterproofing of the roof’s ledge, adjoining the fascia boards, with moisture and thermal heat fuse membrane.

Painting the exterior of the front façade.

Painting parts of the exterior walls in the courtyard of the building.

Painting the historical architectural detail on the front façade to preserve aesthetic appeal.

Jäck says the Western Cape’s strategy to preserve history is admirable.

“Our past is one of the most diverse and richest in the world and the fact that we cherish our heritage shows that our future is dependent on the preservation of our history. This extends to structures built in all regions across the country.”

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