Unique Avalon Springs redesign wins coveted landscaping award

Western Cape, 24 June 2024 – A triumph in design and environmental sensitivity, the Avalon Thermal Springs in Montagu, Western Cape, was recently awarded the 1st Place Merit Award in Planning and Design by the Institute for Landscape Architects in South Africa (ILASA).

Situated just two hours from Cape Town, Avalon Springs is renowned for its top-notch hospitality and natural hot springs, which bubble to the surface at 43 degrees. These mineral-rich waters, originating from Cogman's Kloof, flow through the pools and attract local and international visitors looking to soak away stress and soothe their aches and ailments.

Dream Hotels & Resorts employed Cape Town-based CNDV Landscape Architects to design and project manage the upgrade of Avalon Springs’ five existing pools into 10 new hot pools and four smaller spa pools, in order to create more space and extend the facilities for the hotel guests and day visitors. This R20m project was supported by architects from ROOTED studio architecture and contractors from ESB.

“From Dream Hotels & Resorts perspective, this was a fantastic project to work on. An extensive team of professionals came together to bring the vision for Avalon Springs to life,” says Chris Snyman, Chief of Development at Dream Hotels & Resorts.

There was a tight timeframe of seven months and the project needed to be developed in phases so that two pools could remain usable throughout the building process.

“I was very excited about the redevelopment of Avalon Springs, as I saw it as a once in a lifetime project. To be able to totally redesign a hot water spring resort is quite unique! It was also a major challenge and required a lot of research and design development,” says Tanya de Villiers, Director at CNDV and Lead Landscape Architect of the project.

As there is a finite amount of water in use, the water volume in the 10 new hot pools and four mini spa pools had to remain approximately the same as the original five pools. Narrower and shallower pools with islands were designed, which also maximised the space for visitors to sit on the edges of the pools.

To conserve the precious natural spring water further, it is effectively used three times within the new design system – once in the hot pools, then in the cold pools and finally for irrigation.

“The primary design strategy was to use the flowing and bending sandstone rock formations of the Montagu region to inform the design of the pools, buildings and other outdoor areas at Avalon Springs,” says Kylie Dickson, Principal Architect and Heritage Consultant at ROOTED studio architecture. “The Montagu region is unique geologically. As one drives into the town, the spectacle of orange rocks, with exploding patches of green, yellow or purple flora (depending on the season) is a sight to behold,” Dickson continues.

Careful consideration was given to minimise the footprint of the buildings to give prominence to the landscape. The new structures, which include upgraded ablutions, a kids’ entertainment area, a ticket office and central bar area, were developed to mimic organic pods emerging from the natural surroundings.

“You can hike from Avalon Springs to a variety of caves set in the awe-inspiring rock formations. The concept of the buildings, within the new landscape, was to emulate these cave-like structures, which are naturally cool and pleasant to be in,” says Dickson.

The ILASA judges noted that a standout feature is the meticulous consideration of every detail of the pools, spaces, surfaces and planting. The finished product is of a very high standard and quality. It is robust and makes use of local materials and local artisans.

“In keeping with the terrain, we wanted the design to be natural in materiality. Local stone from Montagu and Robertson was used as cladding and exposed aggregate was sourced from Rawsonville. All the palm trees were removed from the site and additional indigenous trees were planted,” says de Villiers.

“This project is an excellent redevelopment of a world-class hot spring facility in a unique landscape setting. The project is responsive to the cultural-historical context and the upgraded facility is integrated with care and sensitivity into the landscape and biophysical environment,” wrote the judges from ILASA, who only give out this coveted award every two years.

The Avalon Springs redevelopment is a gem in South Africa’s tourism crown, inviting guests to enjoy this carefully upgraded natural wonder in a magnificent mountain setting.

“The evolving landscape, as the flora grows and matures, ensures that the design remains dynamic and ever-changing. This accolade is a true feather in the team's cap, highlighting their dedication and hard work,” says Snyman.