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Remembrance Garden
Seaforth, Simonstown, Western Cape

Roelof Sarel UYTENBOGAARDT: Architect

Type:Garden of Remembrance
Street:Runciman Drive


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34°11'44.93" S 18°26'34.45" E Alt: 48m

A long grey wave unfolds down the bleak wind-whipped slope overlooking the ocean and the large South African naval base.

We are in Seaforth, where, having left historic Simonstown, the southbound coastal road enters a wilder area that precedes the Cape of Good Hope natural park.

The sea is often backlit, leaden, reflecting the colour of the slate slabs that Roelof Uytenbogaard, here as in other works, used to face the raw concrete, decorating the façades and underlining a possible reading of the architectural text, indicating its key words.

The work of man and the natural environment compete with each other in this spatial and landscape design of great effect and simplicity.

The declivity on which the old naval cemetery area stands, surrounded by cemeteries belonging to different ethnicities and religious communities, is covered in indigenous vegetation, the fynbos, mixed with imported vegetation, the domestic pine and the cypress. It is a haunting place that, thanks to this work created over thirty years ago, has received the seal of the understated monument, the place of remembrance for civilian and military victims of war and of the sea, in the form of a promenade through a landscape that has been made classical.

The remembrance garden, a work of reason imposed on the logic of nature, is structured like a carpet that rises from the sea, connecting two roads situated on different levels, exploiting the opportunity to develop a route already much frequented by the locals. After the small flight of steps that separates it from the level of the road, the path broadens out on the left-hand side onto a terrace paved with exposed aggregate cement that slopes up towards the sea and rises above the road, highlighting this separation, whilst on the other side it flanks a piece of land for existing graves. In the middle section of the ascent, the transversal strips of earth, planted with low-growing shrubs free to spread out and spill over their borders, in their rhythm linked to the footsteps of passers-by, are interwoven with the adjacent cemeteries, conveying sacredness and a sense of time to the place. Then, after reaching the commemorative drum and a group of old steles and shrines juxtaposed in a compositional fulcrum, a visual target centred on the long straight groove in the pavement, the pathway opens out into a fluid space: an amphitheatre with two winding courses in grey slate on either side.

The warm-toned paving in concrete with exposed aggregate made with local stone, strikingly separated from the terrain by the deep furrows of rainwater ditches, is the background from which the figures detach themselves, and is the element of continuity of the experience. In this space where the tombstones salvaged from the old cemetery lined up like the open pages of a book, the new sculptural reliefs resolved in Uytenbogaardt's more essential way, the landscape, and the transit of both the attentive visitor and the harried resident are organically fused, the drama of the lives of those lost at sea whose names are no longer remembered is quietly commemorated. Here is a dimension of nature to contemplate, fixed in the immobile stance of the slate fans, the winner of every battle, a force that merges with fate, occasionally having the upper hand over human ingenuity and bravery.

Ref: Vio, Giovanni. 2006. ROELOF UYTENBOGAARDT Senza tempo /Timeless. Il Poligrafo, Padova: pg 89

Submitted by William MARTINSON

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