My first impression of the Turbine was, “Gosh! This is similar to the Pompidou Centre in Paris’ 4th arrondissement.”

Years ago, architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers came up with their unique concept to build something extraordinary. Their solution was elegant in its simplicity – build the building inside-out and place the traditional heart of the structure – pipes, cooling system, machinery etc. – outside. This way, there will be more space inside for works of art. Some may have thought it crazy at the time, but they did it anyway! Today the iconic and colourful Pompidou Centre is a much-loved landmark in Paris. So, why does the Turbine remind me of the Pompidou Centre? It’s the exact opposite! 

Located in Knysna on Thesen Islands, The Turbine is simply amazing! Originally built to supply power to Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, the structure was  decommissioned as a power station in 2001 and sat for years in a state of neglect. Eventually, the disused power station sparked interest from hoteliers Geoff Engel and Dandre Lerm, who obtained permission to transform it into a highlight of Western Cape hospitality. They took this massive 3-year project upon themselves and, at the end of it, the lights in the power generating structure came back on…

Stepping into the Turbine Boutique Hotel and Spa, I was struck by the visually dazzling array of pipes, boilers, turbines and valves all painted in bright contrasting colors. They are part and parcel of The Turbine’s contemporary décor, blended into the designs to make the heart of the electrical structure liveable. Redesigning the structure in this way was done to abide by the conditions stipulated by the Historical Association – the original machinery and turbines were to be kept inside the building in their original positions. The entire hotel has been designed around the concept of incorporating everything as it once was. So, the rest of the space had to be optimised for maximum usage, making sure that every nook and cranny is usable and has a purpose. It was a long process that took a lot of hard work, creativity and a flash of genius.

So, my readers, the next time you are in Knysna or driving along the Garden Route, it’s worth your while to take a look at this landmark from a different era. What was once a power station and hub for generating electricity is now a different kind of hub for Knysna.

You could say it left me buzzing!

QueenB!.…….Abuzzing Off

36 Sawtooth Ln
Thesen Island
Tel: +27 (0) 44 302 5746


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