The Kalahari is a magical place with numerous majestic features, truly a landscape of inspiration and awe. Thatching in the Kalahari, however, is no easy task, but it’s a task that JNA Thatchers recently mastered.

It was the Social Weaver bird and its mysterious-shaped nest that spoke to our client and inspired him. Having a soft spot for nature and wanting to integrate it into his private home, our client already started working on this vision almost a decade ago.

Forward to 2021 and there is a professional team ready to turn the concept into reality. Kobus Duvenhage, owner of the renowned Kobus Duvenhage Bouers in the Northern Cape, was tasked with the challenge to create this masterpiece. Well aware of the challenges of thatching in the Kalahari, Kobus approached Abrie Visagie, technical director of the JNA Group, to take the lead on the construction of the thatched roof.

This was not simply any old thatch roof – it is a roof with exciting structural challenges to ensure it resembles the Social Weaver’s nest.

The walls were constructed using a light wall structure, consisting of insulation material, cladded with cement plaster around reinforcement mesh. This method ensured a short construction process and a well-insulated space in the harsh weather conditions of the Kalahari.

The square shape of the building that nested underneath the natural lines of the thatched canopy, posed many geometrical challenges. The wall plate levels needed to be calculated very accurately to ensure that once the structure is installed on the rectangular, premanufactured wall panels; the actual shape of the roof, reflects the roof design.

The JNA Thatchers design team calculated the wall plate height to the exact level.  The main truss design was bound with steel ties to accentuate the modern relationship between natural wood and industrial design, creating the feeling of a hollow nest. Every structural element in this engineering marvel was critically analysed to maintain structural integrity while achieving aesthetic spaciousness.

With our first site visit in 2020, we found the landscape of the Rooiduin to be true to its name and the stereotypical image of the Kalahari: red sand and dry dunes, leaving us puzzled as to why this area is referred to as the “Groen Kalahari”.

Upon our arrival on site in March 2021, we were met with a completely new Kalahari: lush, green, and the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing the flowing water of the Kuruman river, flowing for the first time in 38 years.

With this breathtaking location, came vast challenges. The logistics of thatching in the Kalahari entailed, among other challenges, moving 60 tons of cape reed thatch and 30 tons of clear-treated pine poles to the drop-off zone close to the site. From there, it needed to be transported through the dunes to the building site. Under the guidance of one of JNA’s engineers, Ritz de la Bat, the dedicated JNA Thatchers team worked in excellent coordination with  Kobus Duvenhage Builders, resulting in the completion of the entire roof within only 6 weeks!

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