The iconic Beacon Island building - designed by the late André Hoffe, architect and fellow of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin Fellowship - is to be refurbished in July. Retired Plett urban designer ALASTAIR GRANT sheds some light on its history.
THE Beacon Island Resort – or BI, as it is known in Plettenberg Bay - was designed by André Hoffe and built for Sol Kerzner’s Southern Sun group. It opened for business as a hotel on December 10, 1972.
The site was previously occupied by a whaling station, until 1912; it then served as boarding house, and then became the old hotel that was demolished more than 40 years ago.
In January this year, the BI managers notified all time-share owners that a proposed refurbishment would commence in July. A website was opened which gave details and opportunities to comment.
The writer reviews some of the features of this building, and remembers its architect.
In 1955-56, André Hoffe was a student of architecture at Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin, and at Taliesin West in the Arizona Desert – the winter venue. These are the two campuses of the Taliesin Fellowship founded by Frank Lloyd Wright.
After working in Salisbury (now Harare), Zimbabwe, Hoffe became a partner in the office of Rhodes Harrison Hoffe & partners in Johannesburg. The firm amalgamated with architect Leslie Louw of Cape Town in 1972 to become Mallows Louw Hoffe & Partners – the designers of the Carlton Centre in Johannesburg.
The senior partner, Prof Wilfred Mallows, was head of the Witwatersrand School of Architecture in the 1970s. The firm is well known today as ‘mlh architects & planners’. Hoffe died in South Africa on July 6, 2004.
The Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art in New York, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is among the 20th century's most important architectural landmarks. Built as a large rotunda, it features galleries spiralling upwards to a glass dome above.
Since its opening in 1959, many great collections have been exhibited here – to the delight of millions of New Yorkers and tourists.
The style of the Guggenheim’s galleries is reflected in Hoffe’s design for the BI, created a decade later. In fact, it is the first building designed in South Africa with a large multi-storey atrium.
It has six tiers of access galleries arranged around a large sky-lit space, creating a dramatic effect. The whole structure is supported on two enormous arches which come down to ground at four points.
In contrast to the generous proportions of the atrium, some carefully detailed intimate spaces were created by Hoffe.
The mahogany-panelled ‘Captains Cabin’ restaurant in the basement was a superb feature of the hotel and is worthy of restoration. It had round portholes which were replaced by small square windows. The entire mahogany interior of this little cabin has sadly been painted over in a pale grey shade.
The Beacon Island Lifestyle Resort has had a long useful life and has been well maintained over the years. It is a remarkable example of the architecture of the 1960s and is a significant part of South Africa’s architectural heritage.