Birds of a feather

Diamond magnate Laurence Graff has marked the maturation of the Delaire Graff Estate with an art installation of birds.

Many a dream dictionary associate birds with aspirations and goals. It is fitting then that diamond magnate Laurence Graff has marked the maturation of the Delaire Graff Estate with an art installation of birds.

Comprising a mass of 800 spiralling perspex swallows, the installation was conceptualised by artist Lionel Smit, and designed and produced by sculptor Andre Stead. The brief was to create a feature to fill the large ceiling space of the Indochindoine Restaurant.

The estate’s second, more intimate restaurant, Indochine’s food and interiors are inspired by contemporary Asia. Picking up from the restaurant’s interior, seven colours of birds are arranged according to the tonality. The sweeping movement of a spiralling flock expresses vibrancy and harmony.

Weighing 720kg in total and spanning 8 metres, the massive stainless steel supporting structure was specifically designed not to be rectilinear, instead contrasting the strict geometry of the roof loft.  The birds are secured by a number of branching fittings attached to the primary structure. It took three months to construct.

Bought by Graff in 2003, the estate underwent a six-year development plan to realise his vision of creating “South Africa’s most desirable art, hospitality and wine destination”. In 2009, the state-of-the-art winery and restaurant opened, followed by the lodge, spa and second restaurant in May 2010, just in time for the World Cup.

Followed by the immediate awards won by the wine, the estate’s lodge was lauded internationally. The US Conde Nast Traveller included the estate on its annual 2011 “Hot List” and Travel + Leisure on its “World's Best New Hotels” list. Wallpaper magazine in the UK named Delaire Graff Estate the “Best Grape Escape” in their 2011 Design Awards.

Besides having what must be the best view of any Western Cape wine farm, these accolades can largely be accrued to the masterful touch of British luxury interior specialist David Collins. Collins’s style is characterised by unusual leathers, plush textures, traditional forms, rich colour and lots of stone.

In the case of the eight individual lodges, each with their own pool balanced on the brink of the valley, the result is a classical quality of indulgence. In the case of the restaurants, winery, cellar and boutiques there is the unmistakable mark of opulence.

What has ensured the authenticity of Collins’s design in the South African context however, was his particularity in engaging local artisans to manufacture the bespoke designs. For instance, Cape Town designer Pierre Cronje produced much of the furniture while brass specialist Pieter van Dyk is responsible for most of the light fittings.

Further, Collins was guided by Graff’s venerable private collection of South African art that is displayed throughout the estate, including works by William Kentridge, Dylan Lewis, Deborah Bell and Cecil Skotnes. Using these pivotal artworks as centrepieces, Collins designed the interiors around the art.

Also included in the art collection are numerous paintings and sculptures by Smit, which is how the 29-year old Cape Town-based artist came to be commissioned to do the installation. Following the World Cup, the Graff Diamonds and 100% Capri Clothing boutiques were opened, the restaurant menus refined, the organic greenhouse and vegetable garden completed, and now this installation.