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Pretoria (viewed from the Union buildings)

Exploring South Africa: Manmade Beauty

June 11, 2010
by Liz Colville
South Africa is one of the most storied countries on the African continent. Home to some of the earliest human fossils in the world, this small country on the southern coast has an abundance of beautiful natural features and a variety of notable architecture. Read on to discover how the uniquely manmade complements the pristine natural environment in South Africa.

Monuments in Sandstone

Take a look at photographer Rudi Venter's images of the breathtaking views from Pretoria's Union Buildings. A British architect, Sir Herbert Baker, designed the sandstone monuments in the early 20th century after a contemporary English style. They are still used today as the seat of the South African government.

In 1994, Nelson Mandela became the first democratically elected president of South Africa and the Union Building served as the place of his inauguration.

Unique Designs

The Western Cape of South Africa is home to Paarl,“considered a treasure chest of South African architecture.” A unique mix of English and Dutch styles, Paarl’s historic buildings have a look all their own. View photos and enjoy the details of the different houses and public buildings in Paarl, including churches, a square, a town hall, a press building and more.

Architectural Beacons

It may come as a surprise that South Africa is home to dozens of lighthouses, all of which showcase the natural beauty of this coastal country. Browse the Lighthouses of Africa Web site for historical explanations and great views of (and from) the lighthouses. While the pictures are great, the in-depth stories behind these buildings provide fascinating glimpses of South Africa's complex political and cultural history.

Helen Martins was a South African schoolteacher from Nieu-Bethesda in the Sneeuberg Mountains, about halfway between Johannesburg and Cape Town in the territory of Great Karoo.

In the 1940s, Martins turned her simple house in this small village into one of the most uniquely decorated houses in the world, filled with beautiful sculptures, murals and vibrant colors. Owl House was declared a National Monument in the 1970s. Browse photos and videos of the building on Owl House’s official site.

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