This South African Villa Lets You Bask in Divine Views

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By Jenny Xie / Published by Dwell
Hidden away in the Cape Overberg region of South Africa, Godswindow offers seclusion and breathtaking vistas.

In the picturesque valley between the historic farming communities of Swellendam and Ashton in South Africa’s Western Cape, there is a view so spectacular that the locals call it "God’s Window." It is in this pristine landscape that Sandy Herman, a retiree from the financial sector, built a minimalist villa to escape the rat race. For the project, he enlisted the help of Georg van Gass of Gass Architecture Studios. Together, Herman and van Gass conceptualized a home with minimal impact on the surroundings, choosing simple box forms and local materials that would recall its South African locale. What began as a retreat for Herman and his friends is now known as Godswindow, a resort that visitors can rent for $616 a night.

This South African Villa Lets You Bask in Divine Views - Photo 1 of 9 - Guests can relax by the pool and soak in the views or hike into the mountains, following a creek into an ancient forest.

Guests can relax by the pool and soak in the views or hike into the mountains, following a creek into an ancient forest.

This South African Villa Lets You Bask in Divine Views - Photo 2 of 9 - Herman and van Gass chose only natural materials like glass, steel, and stone, and designed the house to harvest its own water supply.

Herman and van Gass chose only natural materials like glass, steel, and stone, and designed the house to harvest its own water supply.

This South African Villa Lets You Bask in Divine Views - Photo 3 of 9 - The pool stretches across a rolling lawn that ends at the foot of the wooded mountains.

The pool stretches across a rolling lawn that ends at the foot of the wooded mountains.

The buildings that comprise the villa form the 3 sides of a courtyard and pool, and are oriented towards the Langeberg Mountains, which make up a natural perimeter. "The house was inspired by the setting and how the built forms interact with the environment," says van Gass. "It was the design intent to keep the built forms simple to integrate into the landscape. This is keeps the setting as the hero of the project."

This South African Villa Lets You Bask in Divine Views - Photo 4 of 9 - Herman and his wife love to cook for and entertain their guests. They also have a great selection of South African wine and malt whiskey.

Herman and his wife love to cook for and entertain their guests. They also have a great selection of South African wine and malt whiskey.

This South African Villa Lets You Bask in Divine Views - Photo 5 of 9 - In the living area, a dry packet stone fireplace frames a fire grate that was forged by an expert blacksmith.

In the living area, a dry packet stone fireplace frames a fire grate that was forged by an expert blacksmith.

This South African Villa Lets You Bask in Divine Views - Photo 6 of 9 - The guest bathrooms are outfitted with showers and tubs that feel close to nature.

The guest bathrooms are outfitted with showers and tubs that feel close to nature.

The glass facade and rising roofline of the main building, which holds the communal living and kitchen spaces, embrace the sweeping vistas. The smaller buildings house the bedrooms, bathrooms, and a recreation area, and are constructed with masonry walls and concrete roofs, providing a sense of solitude and peace. "You are totally in touch with the setting, and you can retreat to your cave to rest," says van Gass.

This South African Villa Lets You Bask in Divine Views - Photo 7 of 9 - Herman describes the shape of a sleeping dragon nestled in the mountains. In keeping with a Feng Shui philosophy, he intentionally left a hole in the building to allow the beast a clear view of the landscape.

Herman describes the shape of a sleeping dragon nestled in the mountains. In keeping with a Feng Shui philosophy, he intentionally left a hole in the building to allow the beast a clear view of the landscape.

This South African Villa Lets You Bask in Divine Views - Photo 8 of 9 - "The sleeping block was designed to be cave-like, where you could retreat to," says van Gass. "The materiality of the project is inspired by vernacular tones and textures."

"The sleeping block was designed to be cave-like, where you could retreat to," says van Gass. "The materiality of the project is inspired by vernacular tones and textures."

"It was the design intent to keep...the setting as the hero of the project." -van Gass

This South African Villa Lets You Bask in Divine Views - Photo 9 of 9 - A small Arabian stud and a champion English Pointer live on the site, where mountain leopards and baboons also prowl. Before building, Herman and van Gass cleared the land of invasive species like the black wattle, an acacia tree.

A small Arabian stud and a champion English Pointer live on the site, where mountain leopards and baboons also prowl. Before building, Herman and van Gass cleared the land of invasive species like the black wattle, an acacia tree.

The minimum stay is 1 week for a maximum of 6 guests. For more information or to book your visit, head to the Godswindow website.