Forming part of the “Beautification of main routes into Stellenbosch” by the Stellenbosch Municipality, this odd little piece of land caught between Bird, Mill and Church Streets was previously forlorn and uninviting, with awkwardly sloping levels and haphazard planting.

The desire to renovate the area stemmed from Dr Daniel Louw of Arts Association Stellenbosch, in combination with the Stellenbosch Municipality. Dr Louw grew up in Stellenbosch and as a boy saw the original water mill and stream in the vicinity of the current day Checkers/church plein. His lifelong desire was to restore the water wheel to approx. its original location.

The 230yr old water wheel and cog standing proud at the end of a reflection pond.

The 230yr old water wheel and cog standing proud at the end of a reflection pond.

Project size:                       510m²

Project Manager :            Franko van Eeden

Landscape Architect:      Caren Speirs – Ixia Landscape Architects

Implemented:                   May – August 2017

Budget:                                R925,000.00

Client:                                   Arts Association Stellenbosch / Stellenbosch Municipality

Artist:                                    Strijdom van der Merwe

“Stellenbosch honors its heritage with the installation of a technically challenging feat of hard landscaping.”

The Arts Association Stellenbosch contracted with world renowned landscape artist, Strijdom van der Merwe to propose how the water wheel could be re-incorporated into the space. Strijdom’s sketches were then presented to Stellenbosch Municipality who incorporated this project into the next phase of their “Beautification of main routes into Stellenbosch”.

Appointed to Ixia Landscape Architects, the space was re-designed to link together the three streets with an outdoor space for the public to use. Benches and trees were incorporated into the square and the reclaimed water wheel was positioned as a sculptural piece providing a focal point at the end of a reflection pond water feature, creating a link both historically and psychologically between the water wheel and the original meulsloot, still flowing a few meters away.

The newly completed square opens to the public.

The newly completed square opens to the public.

The reflection pond is gravity fed from the existing meulsloot (a network of historic watercourses that used to serve a number of water mills in the early days of Stellenbosch’s history).

At the bottom end of the water feature there is a sump and the water is then returned, underground, back to the meulsloot.

It was very challenging to calculate the levels for the water reticulation, which in turn determined the levels of the water feature and paving. Originally there was a substantial fall diagonally across the site. In the new design, the central area was levelled out as far as possible and the height difference made up with steps on the perimeter of the site. This required cutting back & removal from site of the excess soil.

The inclusion of the second cog/gear that historically formed part of the functioning of the water wheel was not part of the original scope of works. This cog was also based at Wilgenhof and was only later included in the hard landscape.

The second cog was a late addition to the hard landscape.

The transport and installation of the water wheel itself, was an enormous task and required heavy machinery, closure of the road during installation, and 2 crane trucks as the original truck could not lift the weight of the water wheel.

Even after 230 years, the wheel’s steel was so hard that it required 3 diamond tipped drill bits to penetrate the material.

The second cog was a late addition to the hard landscape.

Other technical requirements included

  • Removal of several parking bays, existing plants, boulders, paving, sub base material and haunching in order to make way for the complete reconstruction of the area.
  • The setting out and construction of new kerbs and channels and cutting and repairing the tarmac accordingly.
  • Surveying of all levels and cutting back the insitu soil to create the final floor levels and steps as required.
  • Re-enforcing in foundations and slabs as well as the construction of water feature and sump slabs with all associated waterproofing etc.
  • Paving of pedestrian walkways and the construction of steps with reclaimed De Hoop bricks.
  • Finally the supply, preparation of planting materials and drip irrigation, the up-lighting of trees, supply and installation of street furniture and litter bins.
Meulplein - Stellenbosch