The Boomslang voted Most Beautiful Object in South Africa

Kirstenbosch's suspended walkway designed by Mark Thomas and Henry Fagan is the public's choice in the Most Beautiful Object in SA at Design Indaba Expo 2015.
The Boomslang by architect Mark Thomas and engineer Henry Fagan was completed at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in May 2014.

Thousands of people may have voted with their feet when they walked across the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, but thousands more voted via SMS to make the walkway the Most Beautiful Object in South Africa (MBOISA) at Design Indaba Expo 2015. The Boomslang, as it is affectionately called, was the public's choice among the 12 nominated works in this year's competition. 

The raised walkway through the garden's arboretum was a collaborative effort by architect Mark Thomas and structural engineer Henry Fagan. "This award is such a wonderful surprise! Never before has there been an opportunity like this for an architect and an engineer in South Africa," said Thomas about Kirstenbosch's commission. "It has felt unreal from the beginning – I still pinch myself about this project. We worked on it for three years. We were surprised that it was possible to create such a complex 3D shape."

Inspired by a snake skeleton, the walkway is a curved steel and timber bridge that winds and dips its way through and over the trees. It takes the visitor on an awe-inspiring journey through nature, rising up from the forest floor into and through the trees and bursting out above the canopy, giving spectacular panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains, Garden and Cape Flats. Thomas and Fagan designed the structure to be low maintenance and low impact.

Every year, Design Indaba invites experts and leaders in the creative community to nominate a locally made product or project that they consider to be the most "beautiful". They are free to interpret the concept of beauty in whatever way they like. The result is always a diverse and throught-provoking roundup of work produced in the past year.

This year's nominators ranged from South Africa’s "top puppet political analyst", Chester Missing, to VISI's deputy editor Annemarie Meintjes, to acclaimed photographer Zanele Muholi. Their selections ran the gamut from the personal to the practical to the political. People got talking about the inclusion of the Explora PVR decoder, manufactured by Pace for MultiChoice and nominated by the editor and publisher of Stuff magazine, Toby Shapshak, for its world-class software. And many people raved about the workmanship in ERRE's silk organza and leather floral dress from its Spring/Summer 2014 collection; as well as in "The Boran Bull", a massive intricately beaded artwork by Ntombephi Ntobela of Ubuhle Beautiful Beads.

Thomas and Fagan win a six-square-metre stand at Design Indaba Expo 2016. So expect to see more incredible work from them next year!