Hamburgers anyone? Try these with a difference in the Skotnes Restaurant. Pictures: Orielle Berry

Driving through the verdant leafy lanes of Constantia that lead to the Norval Foundation, it initially seems that the ultra-modern monolithic square buildings are a little at odds with the surrounds.

7 Years in the making, the foundation was dreamed up and conceived by the Norval family. It's a massive and (and highly impressive) undertaking, potentially placing it squarely in line with other top international museums the world over, from the Pompidou Centre in Paris to The Tate Modern in London, to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to our own Zeitz Moca - which each offer  unique drawcards to art lovers.

 As I walk towards the reception area I throw aside any initial negative perceptions which have been augmented by community members' comments about how the stark-looking modern buildings detract from the landscape in their 'hood. 

The magnificent gardens; the clean-cut modern and clever designs are simply breathtaking and make savvy use of space.

Elana Brundyn is the executive director - a perfect fit as she comes with years of experience as curator in other top galleries with a background in law and economics. 

As we sit in her office which overlooks the stunningly designed gardens, she agrees that the modern design "looks much harder from the outside.

"Let's be honest, it's never easy for a community to see and come to terms with something built from an outside vantage point.

"But people should understand that the cutting edge look and modern lines were conceived (by DHK architects) as a floating platform for art. Sustainable and protecting the work inside from the outside elements. It's a beautiful, considered platform that's organic in concept and and is inspiring," she says.

The brief at the foundation was to create a space where both the best of local artworks sit comfortably with a collection of international 20th and 21st century art within nine dedicated galleries and the expansive gardens, designed by Keith Kirsten International.

Brett Murray's Again Again can be spotted in the magnificent gardens.
Brett Murray's Again Again can be spotted in the magnificent gardens. Pictures: Orielle Berry

The Norval family are not only the founders but the initial funders of Norval Foundation. Their aim, they state, is to make art widely accessible to local and international visitors, by creating a self-sustainable centre for art. 

Located at the foot of Steenberg Peak, adjacent to Table Mountain National Park, there are not only galleries but a research library, a restaurant, a shop, a bar and children's playground and an amphitheatre for concerts. The proceeds from capital donations will be used to secure the foundation for future generations, say the family.

The foundation has three opening exhibitions currently on show and magnificent and awe-inspiring are the key words in describing their display and curation.

Re/discovery and Memory, features major retrospectives of the work of both Sydney Kumalo and Ezrom Legae, curated by Karel Nel. Their work is shown alongside an exhibition of friend and colleague Edoardo Villa. The Kumalo and Legae retrospectives - the first to be undertaken by any institution globally - draws together an impressive and magic body of work covering a series of bronzes and drawings chronicling their innovative artistic practices. 

Meanwhile, the Villa exhibition focuses on the sculptor's work between 1958 to 1968. It's centred around his extraordinary and monumental sculpture Africa (1959).

What's most impressive aside from the work itself is the curation and the highly informative Timeline chart of the artists which places it all in perspective.

The other inaugural show which I loved in one of the smaller galleries is the fascinating Pulling at Threads which shows a series of tapestries and visually immersive materials curated by Owen Martin, created by artists from all over Africa.

One of the definite draw cards aside from the art is the Skotnes Restaurant and Bar, which overlooks the foundation’s rolling wetlands and sculpture garden.

Angus Taylor's Holderstebolder in the sculpture garden. Pictures: Orielle Berry

Named after legendary artist and teacher Cecil Skotnes, the menu pays homage to classical South African cuisine, with a modern twist and interpretation. Executive chef Phil de Villiers says the philosophy behind it all is to to source all ingredients locally from small-batch suppliers, with the intention of supporting and uplifting local communities.

There's lots of other good news -  super-conscious sustainability - from reviving the wetlands to preserving the wildlife and using solar panels as power. 

But probably the best news is how accessible the centre is: 

While there's an entrance fee of R140 a person, all under the age of 18 years get free entrance and a coordinator of education will engage with both public and private schools from across the Western Cape.

Entry on Mondays will also be free, so that everyone has an opportunity to access the foundation. 

Minibus taxis stop directly in front of Norval Foundation on Steenberg Road, and the foundation is located 4.3 km from Lakeside Metro station.

In addition you can also buy an annual general membership for R200, giving free entry all year.