Thesen Islands


The Dry Mill Marina Apartments are situated on Thesen Islands in Knysna. This is on the site of the former Thesen Sawmill, which has been developed into a large residential estate with a smaller commercial core. A number of the old industrial structures have been retained for adaptive re-use and the Dry mill is one of these – it is part of the higher density residential component closer to the commercial core.


It used to be a large drying shed at the Sawmill and has now been adapted for re-use as fifty six luxury loft apartments. The existing steel structure has been retained and the new buildings have been inserted into the existing framework.


The old building envelope was a long rectangular structure of 20 x 200m and the new buildings are arranged along the extended northern and southern edges. In so doing, a central open passage has been created which provides vehicular access to all the units and also ensures that the south facing units get sufficient natural light. Because of this layout the building also provides a spatial edge to the surrounding canals.


The units are arranged over three floors to ensure the maximum amount of water frontage and natural light with single title three storey units and sectional title duplexes & penthouses. The units are grouped into blocks with open courtyards in between which help to articulate the building’s elevations horizontally, while elevator shafts provide verticality and serve as focal points along the building’s edges. Each unit has its own boat mooring to encourage the use of water-borne transportation instead of cars and both the building’s location and design assists in creating a total lifestyle solution.


Because of the careful separation of the individual units and the legibility of the existing structure, the building manages to blend in with the lower density residential area around it, while still responding to the denser commercial core on its western side.


The building was subject to rigid design guidelines as set out by the Developers and in addition to this it also employs shapes and materials that reflect the island’s rich maritime and industrial heritage.


Motivation: The building is an example of how derelict industrial structures can be sensibly adapted and re-used as high density residential developments, which fit in comfortably with lower density individual residences surrounding them. It also proves that larger scale residential apartment blocks can be designed with a human scale and attention to detail within a set budget.

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