The Dome Arts Retreat

The Dome Arts Retreat offers a programme of master classes, concert projects, and courses centered around music and the arts in general. With facilities for instruction, tuition and associated group activities tailored to the needs of musicians, combined with the peacefulness and seclusion of a farm in the heart of the Vredefort Dome World Heritage site, the retreat provides an optimal environment for concentrating on the essence far away from the distractions and noise of the city -- be it at a choir course, master classes, chamber music courses, yoga retreats, craft courses or dancing classes.

The currently available facilities provide for the all inclusive accommodation of groups up to 46 persons. Several seminar rooms and a hall are available for lectures, rehearsals or instruction. The final building phase will add further guest rooms, a dining hall and kitchen, to bring the facilities up to capacity. The unspoilt natural surroundings, many kilometers of hiking and biking trails, as well as the large swimming pool, invite the visitor to relax outdoors.

Deelfontein lies at the heart of a secluded and largely pristine mountain area about 130 km south west of Johannesburg. This is the remainder of a huge impact crater, resulting from the collision of an asteroid of an estimated diameter of 10 km with the earth 2 200 million years ago. On the initiative of the private landowners, the area was submitted for listing as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In June 2005 at their convention in Durban, UNESCO complied, ensuring the protection of the Dome from over-development. In close proximity to the greater Vaal Triangle metropolitan area, the Dome offers an ideal combination of seclusion and accessibility for almost a third of the South African population.

The development of a project such as the Dome Arts Retreat in a world heritage site severely restricts the design possibilities, but also offers interesting challenges. The aim is to use the following guidelines for all development on the farm:

  • Minimising visual impact by restricting building height, covering roofs and facades with a layer of vegetation, and using trees and embankments as visual shields, thus ensuring optimal harmony with the environment.  
  • Limiting development to disturbed areas or existing developments, thus preserving the undisturbed areas.
  • Minimising the eventual consumption of natural resources such as water and energy by corresponding planning in the design stage.
  • Minimising the production of refuse, effluent and harmful substances and avoiding the contamination of the environment.
  • Using sustainable energy sources to achieve the aim of self-sufficiency. 

With current technology, it is already possible to design and build houses with zero net energy consumption. For the development at Deelfontein, it is the ambitious aim to show that this is also possible for a centre catering to the needs of larger groups without compromising normally acceptable standards, thus proving that even commercial enterprises may function with a minimal net consumption of resources. Apart from limiting the developmental impact on the Dome, this will set an example for reducing the environmental stress through development in general.