When Fritz Otto Wirth, who was born in Germany, purchased the farm Nooitgedacht Estate in 1923, I am sure he never imagined or detected that 90 years later there would be an art foundry and a residential village comprising of a mix of residential and retail components situated on a piece of land adjoining his that is now owned by his relatives.
Nooitgedacht Estate is a 270-hectare estate situated five kilometres from the northern fringes of the historic Boland town of Stellenbosch.
Set under 230 year old oak trees and sweeping Cape Dutch gables, this 17th Century farm is rich in history and tradition and surrounded by some of the most famous wine estates in the South African wine industry. With names the likes of Van der Stel, Cloete, Greef, Baker and Rhodes having all walked through the H-shaped Manor house front door, it is not hard to see why Nooitgedacht has left its mark on the Winelands landscape, and why it is one of the most esteemed addresses in the Cape.
One of the focal points of Nooitgedacht Village, which is being developed on an estate situated five kilometres from the northern fringes of the historic Boland town of Stellenbosch, will be the extension of the Village Square to incorporate a new Bronz Editions building that will cater for artists, sculptors, painters and the residents
The Manor House was built in 1774 and together with Groot Constantia can be seen as one of the most authentic examples of traditional Cape Dutch architecture in the province.
Today, the estate is under the careful custodianship of the Wirth family and has been since Fritz Otto Wirth purchased it. After his death in 1940, his sister inherited the farm. She died in 1954 and left the farm in trust for Fritz Herman Werner Wirth who is still currently the owner. He and his family now run Nooitgedacht Estate as a wine and fruit producer and private function venue. They strive to uphold the noble history and in doing so, offer visitors a window into a bygone era.
The family still employs the hands-on approach that made it the successful brand it is today, with all members playing their part in the running of the estate, from the weddings, events and wine through to the day-to-day management.
The Estate currently produces a limited number of premium sauvignon blanc and merlot wines, and projects in progress include expanding into sustainable organic farming and the development of The Nooitgedacht Village, a 25 hectare mixed-use village set to the north of the Estate. Fruits from the Estate are exported to Europe and the Far East. The farm supplies grapes to some of the most prominent Stellenbosch wine estates, including Koelenhof Winery, Simonsig and Kanonkop.
An artist’s impression of the new building
In 1989 the family purchased adjacent commercial land with the aim of developing an authentic and sustainable village based on the notion of the old European settlements, where the shared village experience cultivates a unified sense of community. These villages encompass every amenity required by dwellers in order to live a safe and peaceful life. Once fully completed, it is envisioned that Nooitgedacht Village will have all the necessary essentials for residents to live their entire life in the village, from cradle to grave. The viability of the concept has been vindicated, with many buyers saying the reason they were motivated to buy was the notion of returning to an old-world village, removed from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Construction has already commenced with Phase 1 of The Village Walk and Village Square. The pristine Nooitgedacht Farm provides a sprawling 200-hectare scenic landscape, including over five kilometres of walking paths, dedicated mountain biking and an 8-hectare dam for fishing and canoeing. Residents can picnic near the river, lie peacefully and read books under 230-year-old oak trees, with the majestic Simonsberg and Stellenbosch Mountain peaks providing a breathtaking backdrop.
A first class equestrian facility is also on the cards. Furnished with stabling, paddocks and enchanting riding trials, it will allow seasoned riders the opportunity to practice, and new riders the chance to partake in this leisurely pastime. A resident tack shop will also cater to the needs of homeowners and equestrian enthusiasts from the area.
There is a tremendous amount of work along the way before a finished bronze is delivered
A single panel being worked on
“In Europe you often have these small artist areas in the villages that are very integral to the inhabitants and the village itself. With our village theme for the residential area already in place, in the end it was an easy decision to incorporate the industrial space,” said Christiaan Wirth, who has been the central family member involved.
Establishment of Bronz Editions four years ago
“I have been responsible for looking after the tenants situated on the commercial land for a number of years now and was always interested in the manufacturing aspects. For more than 10 years there has been an art foundry operating from one of the buildings. This interest became a reality four years ago when I acquired the manufacturing side of the foundry and established Bronz Editions. The foundry was experiencing some tough times and the manager at the time put a challenging proposal to me to save the foundry and the livelihoods of the staff.”
“At the time, I had no clue about the manufacturing process, but with the guidance and help of the foundry’s staff and clients, who are mainly well known artists and sculptors, we are now one of the recognised art foundries in South Africa.”
“Modern sculptors who want their pieces cast in bronze depend upon a foundry like ours. Upon receiving the original piece of artwork, we manufacture a silicone rubber mould. Artisans have to skillfully apply the “lost wax” method to wood, stone, clay, plaster and essentially any other form of sculpture to transform the artist’s vision into bronze.”
“Creating a bronze sculpture is an involved process. The delicate and complicated process should only be carried out by suitably skilled and qualified people with the best equipment available. The process of creating in three dimensions, either for one-of-a-kind or a limited-edition series, incorporating power and movement, textures, taking into consideration the impact of negative space and silhouette, taking into account technical issues such as the weight shift and the balance of the sculpture, reproducing the subject’s physical form while exploring their more abstract, deeper meaning, are all aspects you have to consider.”
“Many ancient bronzes were painted with bright, and to our eyes, garish and distracting colours. Aping the patinas of bronzes found buried after hundreds of years, we use mixtures of chemicals and acids and sometimes a blowtorch to produce years of aging in an hour. These recipes are closely guarded. If the bronze is for indoors it is then waxed. Outdoor bronzes will take on their own colours or improve the ones they have been given.”
“So although more than one bronze may be cast, there is a tremendous amount of work along the way. This explains one of the reasons for the cost of bronzes.”
“Our personal service has been developed to provide a wide range of sculptural services which include origination, scaling up, mould making, casting in bronze, patination and restoration as well as the final delivery and installation.”
“We work with a variety of South African galleries, sculptors and artists with many of their bronzes renowned internationally. They can be seen in boardrooms and reception areas of companies and hotels, private collections and game lodges, throughout the world.”
Art as a chief aspect of life at Nooitgedacht Village
“One of the focal points of Nooitgedacht Village is the artist precinct, anchored by Bronz Editions. Bronz Editions will soon relocate to the new Bronz studios building that forms the focal point of the extended Village Square.”
“The science and application behind casting molten metal has been with us for thousands of years but very limited to those involved. The foundry was therefore proposed as a focal point with aim of embracing the art of casting bronzes.”
“The new building is going to include studios for artists, sculptors and painters and a gallery where their work can be displayed and of course a 1 100m² area for Bronz Editions. However, the most exciting aspect for me is that we are going to have a demonstration area where visitors can come and view the process from beginning to end, including the pouring of molten metal. Currently we are also investigating the aspect of allowing visitors to pour their own castings, under supervision.”
“In addition we are exploring other art disciplines and not necessarily focused around metal, whereby there can be public participation.”
Creating a bronze sculpture is an involved process. The delicate and complicated process should only be carried out by suitably skilled and qualified people with the best equipment available. The process of creating in three dimensions, either for one-of-a-kind or a limited-edition series, incorporating power and movement, textures, taking into consideration the impact of negative space and silhouette, taking into account technical issues such as the weight shift and the balance of the sculpture, reproducing the subject’s physical form while exploring their more abstract, deeper meaning, are all aspects you have to consider
“We want to make it a creative, educational and career changing environment while having a bit of fun at the same time.”
The new Bronz Editions building is currently being project managed by consultant Alan Wood who has over 40 years experience in the foundry industry.
“We have taken into account the delicate environment that the new foundry will be located within while at the same time making it a profitable venture. There are many aspects to consider and I believe the concept could be one of the first of its kind in South Africa – combining residential with a wide variety artistic businesses,” said Wood.
The new foundry will be operational by December 2015.
“I am very excited about the prospect of a new Bronz Editions foundry. Its integration into the Nooitgedagt Estate will create an atmosphere of community for inspiration within the very divided South African art scene. From what I have seen, the new foundry will be at the forefront of casting with the new technologies to be applied whilst still retaining the heritage of bronze casting,” said Vincent Da Silva, a sculptor based in Somerset West, Cape Town.
“With bronze sculpture, the foundry echo’s the artists’ standard for quality and workmanship that is put into every piece. The foundry then becomes one of the key factors in realizing the artist’s vision. I find it fitting that the first step in creating a unique environment for artists is to create a foundry to bring about our visions.”
Loosely translated Nooitgedacht means never imagined in English and detected in Dutch.
For further details contact Bronz Editions on TEL: 021 865 2551/2407 or visit www.bronz.co.za