Studios on Park, Stellenbosch | Jürgen Kieslich Architects

Innovative, upmarket student accommodation using modular construction.

When Stefan Braun, a former hotel group CEO who developed two of the Western Cape’s most iconic hotels — the Westin alongside the Cape Town International Convention Centre and Arabella near Kleinmond — turns his hand to student accommodation, one can expect something special.

They had correctly identified a gap for upmarket student “digs” — where the 27m² units sell for between R1.265 million including ground floor parking and R1.360 million for underground parking, or rent for between R 6 800 and R 7 200 per month on the same basis.  One can buy a four-bedroom house with a swimming pool in middle-class Randburg, Johannesburg for that… but this is Stellenbosch!  Where many first-year students arrive with brand new BMWs, Golfs and other status symbols.  Gone are the days when first-years rode bicycles and their cars were banned!

The development has some of the smartest detailing you’ll find anywhere in South Africa.  Look at the single faucet for kitchen and bathroom sinks, for example.


Client:                                                Daniet Beleggings (Pty) Ltd
Development manager:                 Stefan Braun – Hodevco (Pty) Ltd
Architect:                                          Jürgen Kieslich Architects
Structural engineer:                        UWP Consulting
Civil & mechanical engineer:        Ekcon
Quantity surveyor:                          Atvantage
Electrical engineer:                         E2C
Main contractor:                             Remey

“Studios on Park” showcases an innovative and unique modular approach to the design and construction of a multi-storey residential building. This approach to construction, in which the individual living units are factory manufactured and then stacked onto a concrete slab, is thought to be a first for South Africa. A time saving of about 40% was achieved compared to conventional methods of construction.  A very high level of co-ordination between all members of the project team required prior to construction was one of the main challenges of the project, but ultimately contributed to its successful completion.


The R33 million project comprises 62 modular accommodation units at 27m2 per unit, with a mix of three and four storeys of modular units stacked onto a concrete transfer slab over the parking basement.

The site was handed over on 15 August 2013 and the project was completed in February 2014 (approximately 6.5 months later), with a time saving of at least 40% over conventional construction techniques. The construction period included 12 rain days and the builders’ holidays from 20 December to 6 January, when no activity took place on site.

It is estimated that the comparable conventionally constructed scheme would take about 12 months to complete.

The time saving is attributed mainly to the fact that manufacturing of the modular units, forming the upper floors of the building, was started in a factory at the date of site handover. In other words, construction of upper floors (in the factory) ran concurrently with the excavation and construction of the concrete basement structure on site.

The individual prefabricated, steel framed box units were completely finished in the controlled factory environment (including structure, services and all finishes). Units were delivered to site on a flatbed truck (special transport permits were required) and were placed in position on top of one another to form the final building.

The first level of modular units was stacked onto a post-tensioned transfer slab over basement parking. Services (electric, water supply, sewerage, data, etc.) were simply connected on site.

The only elements built in situ were the concrete basement, post-tensioned transfer slab, walkways, staircases and the roof structure.  The concrete walkways between modular units were cast onto Bondek and structural steel. Staircases were constructed from structural steel, as were the roof and gable ends, which “clipped” onto the pod frames.

The quality of the living environment created through this construction method far exceeds that of similar conventionally built residential units. It also meets or exceeds current regulatory requirements with regard to water and energy usage, as well as temperature and acoustic insulation.


  • Site handover on 15 August 2013;
  • Completion end of February 2014;
  • Construction time: 40% faster than conventional
  • 62 units at 27m2 per unit;
  • Maximum stacking height of units: 4 storeys, 12m high;
  • Building footprint: 1 310m2 (extent of basement);
  • Area of roof: 960m2;
  • Total mass of building: 70% less than conventional (3.4kPa per floor compared to 12kPa).


Student housing in Stellenbosch – as in the rest of South Africa – is increasingly in demand. The Studios on Park development was initiated in response to this need. The development consists of a number of buildings of which Studio Vijf is the building discussed here. The building is configured to function as a student residence with 62 units of 27m2 each with communal kitchen and recreational facilities.

The modular nature of the building required made it ideal for off-site modular construction techniques. This approach also gave the developer, Hodevco (a hotel development specialist), an opportunity to try out the new technique on a smaller scale with a view to larger scale for future developments.


There are various generic benefits to using this construction technique, but benefits specifically pertaining to this development were:

  • Increased speed of construction (estimated to have reduced the construction time by at least 40%) due to the ability to begin manufacture of upper floor modules simultaneously with the start of excavation on site for the parking basement;
  • Construction is not adversely affected by weather (bearing in mind that the project was constructed during one of the wettest winters in the Cape in recent times);
  • Higher standard of finishes achieved in a factory environment (see more detail elsewhere in this document);
  • Savings in the cost of foundations and the transfer slab structure due to the reduced loading (modules translate to 3.4kPa DL per floor compared to approximately 12kPa for conventional construction – i.e. 70% reduction in DL);
  • No need for expensive shear elements for seismic design, due partly to interconnectivity of units but mainly to reduced seismic loading (seismic loading is largely a function of DL);
  • No storage of bulky materials needed on a very confined site;
  • Saving in overall project cost due to interest saving on the development finance;
  • Increased project revenue due to the ability to add three additional units compared to the comparable conventional scheme.


Our research indicates that this is the first project of its kind in South Africa. The method is being used fairly commonly internationally, particularly for hotel developments (with a lot of repetition) and inner city sites where space constraints make it attractive.

The challenges that needed to be overcome to complete the project successfully are not rooted in pure structural engineering complexity (the structural concept is relatively simple), but related much more to the more intricate detailing and the  high level of co-ordination required  between different parties involved in the design process. Managing, educating and mentoring the contractor and manufacturer of the modules in the novelties of the technique proved to be a challenge.

The main challenges, in summary, were as follows:

  • A very high level of detailing is required prior to the start of construction on site and in the factory. There is no leeway for alterations/adjustments on site.
  • The condensed construction programme, together with the required level of detailing mentioned above, resulted in the team having to produce a significant amount of construction information in a very short time (compared to conventional means of construction where a lot of detailing is developed as the construction proceeds on site).
  • There was a steep learning curve associated with the leading edge technology, including scepticism from potential end users.
  • Ignorance of method caused problems during the council approval and design development stages and the detailing of interfaces between conventional and new construction method during the execution of the project was challenging.
  • Conventional financing was not possible as banks fund developments on a cost to completion basis and off-site manufacturing is not financed at all.
  • The building was rated as an hotel and not a boarding house, which required very costly fire prevention designs and equipment.


The main loadbearing frame of the building is incorporated into the modular unit manufactured in the factory. This consists of hot-rolled steel columns and beams (fairly light SHS and Channel sections) forming the external frame. Wall, floor and ceiling panels are all supported by cold-rolled lipped channels (purlin sections) welded to the primary loadbearing frame.

Once the units have been bolted together on site, vertical loads are transferred through the steel corner posts from unit to unit and ultimately onto the concrete transfer slab and the foundations below. See typical section through the building below: Typical section

Lateral stability was less challenging on this project in comparison to conventional buildings of equal size due to the dramatic reduction in the overall mass of the construction. The lateral loads typically being considered when designing a multi-storey building in the Western Cape are (a) wind loading; (b) notional horizontal forces as prescribed by the design codes; and (c) seismic forces.

The notional horizontal forces and seismic forces are directly linked to the mass of the building and in most conventional buildings the seismic forces far exceed the other two load cases and therefore govern the design of the structure required to resist lateral forces. In this particular instance, the reduced building mass (only 30% of the mass of a comparable conventional building) results in dramatically reduced magnitude of the design notional horizontal load and the seismic load. In fact, it was found that – contrary to expectations – the load case governing the design of the lateral support system was the wind loading rather than seismic action.

Lateral stability in the two directions is dealt with as illustrated in the sketches below. In principle the lateral forces across the length of the building (Direction 1) are resisted by 3.8 x 3.8m welded vierendeel frames connected to one another and sharing the load between the units. The loading across the width of the building (Direction 2) is resisted by the braced long sides of the modular units.


Factory prototype

Factory prototype – note vierendeel frame on short elevation and bracing along the side.

Another structural aspect unique to this type of construction was the requirement to have a measure of acoustic separation between modules. This was achieved by the introduction of high density rubber isolating pads at connection points of all the units. See the connection detail below, illustrating the approach taken. It was found to be very successful with noise transfer between units at least equal to the performance expected for a conventional building.Acoustic Isolation Pads

It is worth pointing out that the majority of the structural elements had to be incorporated into and be sympathetic to the overall aesthetic of the building (for example, the vierendeel frames on the external elevations of the building). This required a more careful and detailed approach when dealing with steel connections and also demanded a high level of interaction with the architect.


The following steps were taken to meet or exceed environmental requirements and mitigate environmental challenges:

  • Very high levels of insulation included in factory build of units;
  • Use of double glazing for windows;
  • Less bulk material usage (mass of the building is 30% of the conventional equivalent);
  • Grey water system and borehole water utilised for irrigation;
  • Existing trees were retained which would have been lost with conventional construction.


Retention of large trees during construction.

Note retention of large trees during construction.


There were several benefits associated with manufacturing the individual living units in a factory environment off site, such as:

  • Imported quality finishes at 4-star hotel room level;
  • Acoustic performance similar to a 5-star hotel room;
  • Improved temperature insulation (similar to the zero rated system);
  • Enhanced security and safety features;
  • Instant water heating units per room as opposed to central boiler/geyser system, saving over 50% energy;
  • State of the art ICT facilities – WiFi, ADSL, DSTV, Telkom lines, CCTV security systems.


When simply comparing construction cost of this modular building with a comparable conventional building, the actual construction cost is slightly more for the modular building. On this scheme – and for any other future development – it should however be noted that the dramatically shortened construction period when using modular construction result in considerable savings on interest on the development finance.

In this particular case, due to the geometry of the units, it was possible to include three additional units within the rights of the property.

These two factors made the project viable. Considering that this development was only 62 units and that a sizable hotel would be at least 250 units, it is evident that economies of scale will sway the feasibility in favour of modular construction. This is based on the assumption that any development being considered for modular construction must involve a high level of repetition to gain the said advantages of economies of scale.

Baruch Guest House

There were two main reasons why we decided to start a guest house.

Rosie (Roseline Diamond), our domestic worker, soon revealed that she is capable of much more than organising our house.  Another reason was that we wanted Rosie (who was living with her parents and six children in a two bedroom flat) to have a place of her own.

The day we saw the property at 35 North Rhodes Avenue in Die Boord, Stellenbosch, we knew the time for renovation had started…

Today, Rosie, her beautiful daughter Samantha (who is completely deaf) and Samantha’s fiancé (also deaf) are all part of the wonderful team we have at Baruch’s Guest House.  Both Samantha and Samuel have permanent positions at the Guest House.

During the renovations, Pretty (a Xhosa woman) came walking past the Guest House.  I started talking to her and heard that she is without work at the moment due to the fact that she had to look after her husband who was completely bedridden and later passed away.  Only after Pretty started as a permanent employee did she tell me about the dream she had the night before she came to Stellenbosch for the first time.  She dreamt that she needs to go and seek work at a place where she will see the “Tall Trees.”  There is a park right next to Baruch with tall trees!  After a year I asked Pretty to phone her sister in the Eastern Cape to come and join our team.

Baruch is the Hebrew word for “blessing” and I can honestly say that Baruch has been living up to her name!  We serve guests from all around the globe and have the wonderful opportunity to get to know them on a personal level.

Lampiesbaai Village, St Helena Bay / Chris de Hart Architects

Architect Chris de Hart adapted the design guidelines he originally wrote for the development of Jacobsbaai Coastal Village “Kontreidorp” for the design of this Lampiesbaai high-density village. After extensive research into the remaining “Sandveld’ vernacular architecture of the West Coast region of South Africa, he pioneered the re-establishment of this unique style which is appropriate to this particular arid region, and which style was borne out of the availability of scarce materials and the inherent transformational obstacles.

The style with its slender, pitched-roof, rectangular core building and flat roofed abutments in predominantly white walls, small windows and door openings are suitable to this hot dry area.  The simplicity of the architecture has a romantic charm to it, which is further enhanced by the large fireplace abutments to the buildings and resultant internal large open fireplace referred to as an “Es” which is conducive to a family gathering, and living in farm-style kitchen spaces.

Developer: Miami Village
Architects:  Chris de Hart Architects
Structural Engineer:  Jannie du Toit
Contractor:  West Coast Civils

Picardi Village / Chris de Hart Architects

Picardi Village is a group-housing scheme next to the well known KWV Head Office in Paarl, Western Cape.

It is developed as 8 typical double storey town houses in the classical old Cape Batavian Architecture with a colourful narrow European style cobbled road and individuality created by the juxtaposition of different size windows and doors with the façades forming a back drop to the human scale pedestrian road.

All the units are essentially lock-up-and-go with small garden spaces, all orientated north to capture maximum sunlight and heat.

Developer and Contractor: JJ Dempers Pty Ltd Building Contractors
Architects: Chris de Hart Architects
Structural Engineer: Nortje and De Villiers

Oude Arena Village, Bredasdorp / Chris de Hart Architects

The site of the Oude Arena Village housing development is the old ”Renbaan”, or racetrack of Bredasdorp in the Western Cape South Africa, situated on the main road on the east side of the town where, in 1901, the first race took place on the agricultural show grounds.

The race track is famous not only as the home of the horse named York, who was the 1904 Met winner, but equally his illustrious owner, Billy Anderson, who had the distinction of being the first double Springbok sportsman in rugby and cricket, as well as the likes of Karel de Baan who it is said could outrun a Bontebok.

A century later Chris de Hart Architects from Stellenbosch in the Western Cape South Africa were appointed for the design of 45 single-residential and six apartment units.

Appropriately, the “De Oude Arena”-Village housing estate honors the rich history of the site and the vernacular architecture and imagery of Bredasdorp and the similar rural language of the Western Cape with it’s reference to romantic building materials and forms.

The character of the old farm and racetrack was maintained in the architecture of all the structures. The Apartment building resembles old stables with the traditional grain-silos, dormered windows as well as farm type doors, all of which were cleverly worked into the planning of the apartments.

Care was taken to give every house its own individual character within a cultural, historical and architectural reference. By using different textures, wall finishes and paint colours different design elements were accentuated. The most prominent of these are the various chimneys and “bakoond motive” elements forming a very distinctive streetscape.

A Museum/Office building for the display of memorabilia representative of the old racetrack and town folk, forms the focal entrance to De Oude Arena. From here the Silo-culture of the Cape Agulhas is prevalent in the streetscapes with traditional local stone ‘leivore’ channeling water to a central Village Green ‘drinkbak’ water-feature. Lush, tree-planted, cobbled streets and textured articulated building and boundary walls, combined with the vernacular architecture lend an old town-like character to this quaint village

The present house options vary in size. They range from 114m2 to 163m2 single and double storey houses. Duplex apartment stable-blocks of 71m2 to 88m2 also form part of the village layout. In order to cater for the demand of the elderly, the future stable block apartment building will be constructed as a single story structure with two bedroom units, but still forming part of the stable block style of approx 80 m2, two bedroom units.

An additional building option now allows for a two bedroom starter house of 85m2 which includes a single garage and culminating in a three bedroom house of 120m2 with a  double garage with different architectural treatment to fit into the present “De Oude Arena” village architecture.

Externally, farm-style chimneys and silos jut out from the main structures in a joyous and almost playful manner lending an element of excitement to the units. Internally the different volumes and traditional “bakoond” fireplaces with spaces opening into usable courtyards, relives the old farmhouse living. The interior materials have been chosen to provide a luxurious durable quality suggestive of rural living.

The buildings have been placed in such a way as to maximize erf utilization and to provide privacy from neighbouring units.

‘De Oude Arena” captures the romance of living within the Bredasdorp rural-architectural and ambiance.

Developer: Sarnia Property Development (Pty) Ltd
Architects: Chris de Hart Architects
Town Planners and Land Surveyor: RAP Land Surveyors
Structural Engineers: MH&A Consulting Engineers

Home in a brandy tank, Montagu, Western Cape

Johan Venter’s brandy tank home in Montagu, Western Cape

Old Mother Hubbard lived in a shoe but, for many South African males, the thought of living in a brandy tank is far more alluring!  But that’s what Johan Venter has achieved.

The old KWV property in in the centre of Montagu was sold to Jannie le Roux and the property, comprising the brandy tank, boiler house, wine cellar and offices, was subdivided.   The offices were converted into a house, the brandy tank into a cold room  for fresh fruit and new houses built on vacant space.

When Jannie retired and left the town, the tank stood empty but Johan Venter — an electrician who had moved to Montagu from Welkom in the Free Sate — bought the house and workshops.  The properties opposite the derelict tank were not selling and Jannie toyed with the idea of turning it into a house after options for demolition and relocation were explored.

In the end, Johan bought the tank for “a good price” in 2009 and took up the challenge of seeing Jannie’s dream come true… a home in a brandy tank.  Plans were approved by the municipality in September 2010 and Johan started work with his own labour — he owns an electrical contracting company in the town.

The tank’s previous use as a cold room was a big advantage — it had been completely lined with cold-room panels (which would have cost around R150,000).  These had sufficient load-bearing capability to carry the flooring beams for the first floor — which occupies half the floor area while the other half over the living area is double volume.  The first floor was originally planned to accommodate two bedrooms and two bathrooms, but now just has one vast bedroom and a bathroom.

Guest bedroom, living, dining and kitchen areas on ground floor with one vast bedroom above.

An entrance lobby was added to the front of the tank and a scullery area to the back, above which sits the main bathroom at first floor level.  The ground floor below the first floor was divided into a guest bedroom and bathroom, and the kitchen.  The other double volume half accommodates the living and dining areas.

An entrance lobby was added to the front. The roof over the tank was part of the original structure, to keep the brandy cool. There was also an irrigation system around the top circumference.

It was not an easy job!  Everything had to be custom made and every part of the job was a challenge.  Not the least was cutting through the 6mm steel plate for the windows and doors, and installing these.  It was labour-intensive!

But after two years of part-time work, from the deck alongside the first-floor main bedroom, the view is priceless!

View from first floor deck



Stanford Style / Stanford Aesthetics Committee

A group of informed and competent volunteers is safeguarding the village of Stanford’s architectural character, and the basis of its economy. For more on Stanford, click here.

The original layout of Stanford dates to 1857 when the Kleinrivier Valley Farm was subdivided. This layout was typical of rural villages: a simple grid with large erven and a central public square. This simple layout still stands today and this set of guidelines has been compiled to assist owners and developers to become aware of the unique streetscape and architecture which has made Stanford the sought after rural village it is today.

The Core Conservation Area A & B (map at bottom of page) encourages the preservation and maintenance of the historical features of Stanford and guides all developments in this area. It encourages alterations and modifications of existing unsightly buildings to harmonize with the Cape Village atmosphere.

Stanford’s architectural styles from 1785 to the 1930’s:

Stanford styles


Stanford’s unique street architecture
has the following features:

  • Open stoeps (parallel to the street)
  • Diamond windows at the sides
  • Vertical sash windows
  • Imposing front doors onto the streets
  • Victorian profile iron or fibre cement roofs
  • Roof pitches not less than 30 degrees unless flat
  • Gables of various types
  • Attic doors or windows in the gable
  • Low street walls…
    Conservation streetscape

Stanford streetscapeDo’s when renovating or building in the historic core area

  • Do try to make sure that your building is not out of scale with its surroundings.
  • Elements of streets architectureDo try to relate your building to the street in a similar way to surrounding buildings.
  • Do incorporate the elements of Stanford’s street architecture in your design.

Don’t’s when renovating/building in the historic area

Don't enclose stoeps

  • Don’t build in or enclose your existing stoep on the street.
  • Don’t fake reconstructions ie. Cape Dutch which competes with and devalues genuine buildings.
  • Don’t use fake thatching, cement roof tiles, large profile fibre cement roof sheets or IBR.
  • Don't use horizontal stoep windowsDon’t use modern horizontal windows or aluminium or steel doors that are visible to the street.
  • Don’t use horizontal roof windows.
  • Don’t use unplastered concrete or facebrick of any kind.
  • Don’t remove good trees or hedges without a very good reason.
  • Don’t build high walls on the street

AREA B (Outer Core Conservation Area)
Any buildings which are over 60 years old have to be dealt with as if they are in the Core Conservations Area A or B, otherwise the general building regulations apply.
Special considerations are:

  • Sensitivity to the river frontage.
  • Height restriction.

Special considerations are:

  • Sensitivity to the river frontage.
  • No double stories. Only attic rooms if these are not more than 50% of the ground floor area.
  • Cape Victorian or Cape Dutch style (as stipulated in relevant title deeds).
  • No vibracrete walls.

General building regulations apply.
It is suggested that the general architecture and rural elements of the Stanford style is respected.

Contemporary Architecture in Stanford
There is no single approach to conservation!
Therefore conservation does not imply opposition to development and change. Selective overlaying of ideas and building types of different historical periods has made urban environments far richer than could have been the case if everything had always been conserved and if the new had simply blindly followed the patterns of the old.
Contemporary designs for infill buildings in historical areas are not undesirable provided that they are sympathetically executed.

Boundary walls
Like stoeps, boundary walls and security fences are an important part of the way your house presents itself to the world.
These should not exceed 1.2m on the street boundary and 2m side and rear boundary unless a special waiver is obtained.
If, however, for aesthetic or security reasons you need a higher wall, it should be designed with a doorway in such a way as to harmonise with the streetscape and perhaps set back from the building line.
Boundatry walls
Minor works building plans must be submitted for any street boundary walls or security fence.

Rules and regulations:
All proposals for alterations to any building or for the erection of new buildings within or without the Core and Greater Conservation areas must be submitted to the Overstrand Municipality of Stanford for approval by the Stanford Aesthetics Committee.
Preliminary sketches can be submitted for their comments and suggestions prior to being drawn up.For more information please see the following available at Stanford Admin.

  • Zoning scheme Regulations Annexe A
  • Concept Structure Plan for Stanford Policy Document 1998
    Available from Stanford Municipality
    Tel: 028 341 0640

Conservation zones


Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre / Peter Rich Architects

Location: Mapungubwe National Park, Limpopo, South Africa

Architects: Peter Rich Architects
Awards: Holcim Award for Sustainable Construction, Acknowledgement Prize, 2008, Africa/Middle East; Short listed for David Alsop Sustainability Award, Institute of Structural Engineers – Structural Awards 2009; Winner of the World Building of the Year award at the World Architecture Festival held in Barcelona in November 2009.

Related content: Mapungubwe, South Africa’s first kingdom

The Mapungubwe National Park celebrates the site of an ancient trading civilization in the context of a natural setting. The complex landscape was both the inspiration for the design and the source of the materials for the construction of the new Interpretation Centre, resulting in a composition of structures that are authentically rooted to their location. The building is visually contained by two hollow cairns that evoke route-markers found in Southern African cultures. Timbrel vaulting is used to construct billowing forms that expose the arched edges of their thin shells, an analogy of the archaeological revelation of past cultures.

The project’s agenda extends beyond the presentation of the area’s history to awaken an understanding of the vulnerability of the local ecology. These objectives are manifested in the construction process of the Centre in which unemployed local people were trained in the manufacture of stabilized earth tiles and in building the vaulting.

Report from World Architecture Festival 2009: “Designed to house artefacts from the region´s prehistory, the building connects intimately with an extraordinary veldt site in northern South Africa near the border with Zimbabwe. The jury admired the way in which the architecture responded to vernacular African types, synthesising forms, materials and light in a nuanced but unsentimental way to make what is still an indisputably contemporary building of immense resonance and richness. It also underpinned by a strong social programme, using the skills and labour of local people and involving them in the design and construction process. Engaging with tradition and modernity, place and people, it offers a different view of architecture as a subversive and poetic force for transformation.”

Mapungubwe Day Visitors Centre

Located 800 meters north of the Mapungubwe Interpretation centre this is a Place where local chieftains can meet and engage in ritual practice and celebrate their ancestry with their collective constituencies.

Sited on a plateau above a natural amphitheatre meeting and dining facilities for 30 chiefs enjoy wonderful views towards Zimbabwe. Simple linear and L shaped structures enclose a courtyard containing a circular meeting hut and veranda. A simple timber and latte shaded structure ‘Kgotla’ defines the edge of the plateau and functions as a gallery and dining space, elevating the chiefs above the masses. Under the latte canopy sits a roofless sky room, with seating where conversations are held with the ancestors.

L shaped ablution blocks catering for the staff and the public face North, defining a linear stepped street down the hill to the amphitheatre.

Direct community consultation was prohibited to avoid contentious issues with land claims from 17 contesting communities. The architect drew on his extensive knowledge of African vernacular and space making to create poetic spaces, defined by simple rhythms and animated by dancing shadows with the most economic of means.

Green Point Urban Park / OvP Associates

Cape Town

Cape Town Stadium on the Green Point Common was the catalyst to transform what had become a dysfunctional public open space into a vibrant public amenity and destination point for the people of the Cape Metropole.

Additional photographs & plans will still be added.

Location: Green Point Common, Cape Town

Client: City of Cape Town
Landscape Architects: OvP Associates
Quantity Surveyor:
Project cost/budget

Reconstruction of the Green Point Common
Throughout Cape Town’s recorded history of over 350 years, Green Point Common has always played an important role. Diverse uses have ranged from the grazing of livestock, the staging of sailing regattas in the shallow seasonal vlei (filled-in during the 1800s), to housing the British prisoner-of-war camp during the Anglo Boer War.

Green Point Common was always a place for rambling and outings taken by Table Valley residents and became the site of the very first horse races held in the Cape in 1795.

Other firsts include rugby and cricket matches. The Green Point track became an important venue for cycling and other athletics sports and, in 1900, land was made available for a metropolitan golf course. As vested land, the Green Point Common was granted to the Cape Town City Council in 1923 by the Union Government as Commonage for general public recreation and sports fields.

Rapid population growth increased the demand for playing fields on the Common, as relatively flat land had become scarce and was placed at a premium.

By the turn of the 21st century, the Common consisted mostly of dedicated sports facilities (some disused and overgrown) with associated clubhouses – many of which were dilapidated and unused. Sports fields were separated by fences of all descriptions, limiting public access through the Common and impeding flexibility of movement.

The term “Common” had become a misnomer. The public environment had become restricted to roads and parking lots, attracting people only on Sundays to the flea market and annual Pick ‘n Pay / Argus Cycle Tour.

The advent of planning and building the new 2010 Cape Town Soccer Stadium on the Green Point Common became the catalyst to realise the City of Cape Town’s long-standing objective; to transform what had become a dysfunctional public open space into a vibrant public amenity and destination point for the people of the Cape Metropole; through the construction of a high quality multi-functional park that will contribute to the identity and overall regeneration of the Cape Town city bowl; as well as Green Point and Sea Point beachfront.

Beyond the Stadium
The decision to locate the new stadium on the 107-year old metropolitan golf course combined with the objective of providing a park for passive recreation, necessitated the reconfiguration of the 105 hectare common.

The process of preparing a framework plan for the common entailed extensive negotiations with the various sporting bodies and interest groups who had leasing rights on the land. This was followed by a metropolitan wide series of participatory workshops for public input and comments. The plan was further subjected to City Council and Provincial Government approvals before construction could commence on the 18.5 hectare stadium precinct, 72.5 hectare golf course and sports fields, club facilities and informal trading and passive recreational amenities.

Green Point Urban Park consists of the stadium precinct, golf course, sports fields and a public park for passive recreation and concession use areas. These various components are described below.

The Stadium Precint
Covering 18 hectares of the common, the landscape architectural design of the stadium forecourts are structured to the needs of the stadium, comprising expansive paved surfaces to accommodate and channel vast surges of people in short periods of time to and from the podium gateways.

Trees, landform and low stone walls are used as space-defining elements, placed in rigid geometric patterns in the forecourts. These elements reinforce and interconnect the sequence of urban spaces. Tree placement and the choice of paving materials reflect the surrounding Cape Town streetscapes and ensure that the precinct is knitted into the larger urban fabric.

Large trees further function as sheltering windbreaks and provide shaded gathering and meeting spaces. A gridded copse of trees forms a counterpoint to the vast western forecourt and, on maturity, will provide a tree canopy that will cover the entire Sunday traders market.

Parallel to the southern edge of the podium, a mature stand of Eucalyptus and Ficus trees have been retained. Low seat walls demarcating spaces beneath the trees are faced with blue-stone harvested from excavations for the stadium and are congruent with the traditional stonework as found at the adjacent Fort Wynyard historic site and elsewhere within Cape Town.

A generous pedestrian connection to the stadium from the city underpasses a raised traffic roundabout and is in itself a landmark. A generous “open to the sky” plaza extends under the road circle, giving access to a rapid-transit bus system and provides a protected meeting and waiting space for spectators and park users.

The new golf course and sports fields extend over 55 hectares of the common. The application of modern golf course design standards resulted in a much larger course area than the earlier configuration had occupied.

Previously, many different sports bodies, clubs and schools had leased premises on the common; with golf having the largest land requirement. Demand for land on the reconfigured common was extremely high and to accommodate it all was an almost impossible task.

Thus, the holistic framework plan focused on the consolidation of sport entities to form a single club for each sport, i.e. one rugby club, one soccer club and one cricket club to replace the myriad of duplicities.

The original golf course was unique in its layout with 9 holes and 14 greens, enabling an 18-hole game. The City was obliged to replace the same, but with sufficient space to accommodate modern standards for golf course design which, as mentioned, requires a much larger land area.

Geo-technical investigations revealed growing soil depth to be minimal and under-laid by bedrock. To provide profiles and landform interest, the course was filled with 300 000m3 of soil excavated from the stadium and other nearby construction sites.

Clearing from the old golf course and stadium site included the harvesting of grass sods (transplanted to other city fields) and selected trees uplifted and held in on-site nurseries for later transplant to the new golf course and park. So, too, was topsoil harvested and stockpiled for later re-use.

The completed golf course accommodates an extensive pond system that functions as a water reservoir for irrigation use as well as a management system for the stormwater flowing from the stadium and surrounding paved-surface areas.

The northern edge now provides a kilometre long golf course frontage to the adjacent residents. The amenity value of overlooking the golf course is now clearly reflected in the increased real estate values of these properties.

On the south-western edge, the golf course interfaces with the Green Point Park, adding to the ambience and landscape diversity of this urban setting.

Green Point Park
Green Point Park as a distinct entity, independent of the Stadium forecourt precinct, may be considered a ‘Park in the City’ – a place for relaxation and urban respite – for mind and body. It is a place for recreation and social interaction within a green context. It has the propensity to become a place to share, to observe and to learn about our ecological interdependence; and through this, to engender in society an appreciation and attitude of stewardship of the earth and understanding our place within it.

The park is by its very nature, a green landscape, and as such needs to be defined in the appropriate terms to convey its meaning. It is seen in contrast the harsh urbanity of the surrounding city, by portraying a consolidated green image.

The park has significance at two scales: in serving Cape Town’s Metropolitan Community in the broader sense, as well as the Local Community in the immediate sense. Thus a great diversity of user-needs and range of requirements are to be met within the Park. This encompasses (inter alia) diversity of in terms of cultural references, diversity in age-groups, and diversity in physical ability and agility. Thus inclusivity and universality underpinned the conceptual formulation of the park.

The 12.5 hectare park within its physical limitations embodies a network of pathways, multi-functional spaces, shade structures, play park, an amphitheatre, signage and park furniture.

The park’s poetic landscape “spirit of place” is derived from landform, tree avenues, windbreaks, diverse vegetation and a strong presence of water in the form of water ponds and cascading streams.

Park Access
Although the perimeter of the park is fenced for security measures, it will be freely open to the public from dusk to dawn. Special events after hours may occur by special arrangements. Five gateway entry points to the park are provided to maximise accessibility.

Promenade and Pathways
Most prominent is the tree-lined lighthouse promenade linking Gateway East to Gateway West over a distance of 700 metres reminiscent and of similar length as the “Gentlemen’s Walk” in the City’s Company’s Garden. The promenade is centred on the Mouille Point Lighthouse being the oldest lighthouse in the country, aligning and offering views onto the golf course and stadium to the north. Generous in width; strollers, joggers and cyclists on the promenade by-pass special events spaces, show gardens, water and sculptural features, crossing the water ponds over an elevated wooden bridge.

Gateway South is centre to the park and adjacent to the bus, car and bicycle parking areas. This entrance leads to intersect with the promenade, passing the future restaurant and eco-centre complex and a special events square.

In the middle of the park, a large round lawn area provides space for informal kick-abouts, kite flying and for special events. The lawn is framed by trees and surrounded by a circular path containing a series of pavilions and pergola structures offering places for social interaction and picnicking in shade.

Beyond, a series of outdoor “rooms” are formed by vegetated windbreaks and scattered trees, allowing for informal recreation and future uses.

Water in the Park
Ameliorating the poor on-site soil conditions and tempering the severe prevailing winds posed major challenges. Most problematic however, was the uncertainty of a source of water supply for irrigation purposes. Relying on potable water for the irrigation of a large-scale park is simply not sustainable from cost, moral and environmental perspectives.

This problem was overcome by procuring water directly from Cape Town’s original and forgotten water source – the spring fountains on Table Mountain. With a gravity fed and secure source of water, it became possible to ensure a green common and to transform the park to include water features, ponds and wetlands.

At the point where the water emerges from the underground pipe, it is articulated as follows : it wells-up to resemble the source of a river; from there it flows over a textured surface and then falls over rocks into a pond. From this, city children can learn about nature and the dynamics of water. In addition, a water wheel showcases the possibility of alternative power sources by generating enough electricity to operate the wetland pumps. A turbine, driven by the gravitational pressure of the water supply will, in future, supply electricity to the planned Eco-Centre.

The Eco-Centre
Earmarked for the future is the development of a ‘smart living educational centre’ – a building that will display technology and innovations related to sustainable development. Green technologies such as construction from renewable resources, environmentally-friendly building materials, solar and wind energy supply systems, water conservation systems, recycling of materials and Green Star standards are to be incorporated in the building.

These features collectively are to reduce the Eco-Centre’s impact on the environment and to cut energy costs significantly. The Eco-Centre will serve as a model of sustainable construction that others can follow.

A Bio-diversity Showcase Garden
In line with its educational function, the park also contains a bio-diversity show garden, designed with the assistance of botanist and educationalist, Marijke Honig. This is a display garden rather than an ecologically balanced landscape. The aim is to educate people about bio-diversity and water-wise landscaping.

The Garden will be a place where people can wander along paths and marvel at the incredible diversity of plant species indigenous to the Cape. The Garden will be integrated into a wetland eco-system, showcasing amongst other roles, the wetlands water-filtering ability.

The Garden and the wetlands also provide the opportunity for habitats to develop hosting insects, amphibians, birds and small reptiles.

With a full understanding of the Green Point Park’s ecological context, it will be possible to create many areas of diverse vegetation that are allowed to grow naturally. Maintaining wildflowers, for example, can be cheaper than gang-mowing large areas of grass – and a field of brightly coloured indigenous flowers may be far more appreciated by the local community than a dull patch of grass. The open space areas of the Park will enable the integration of the more formal landscaping areas with the character of the more indigenous Bio-diversity Garden. Allowing indigenous grasses to grow tall creates a more natural look and softens the landscaping.

Storyboards, signage and handouts will tell the story of the importance of bio-diversity conservation in Cape Town through the ages and offer tips on what people can do in their own environments. Compelling and engaging signage will offer something for every age group.

Play for All
Play is an integral and extremely complex part of a child’s mental, physical and social growth. It can be divided into three major categories : physical play, the development of motor skills; social play, the interaction between children; and cognitive play, the problem-solving process.

Green Point Park aims to provide opportunities for all of these types of play for all age groups including those with physical or mental disabilities. A tot-lot for the very young and an adventure park for others are being constructed on the lee and sunny side of a 5 metre high berm.

To be inclusive, catering for the agile and disabled together, specially designed play apparatus are being integrated with custom-designed sculptural timber space frames.

For the young adult and elderly, a trim park furnished with robust outdoor exercise equipment, provides a further measure to support the park ethos of healthier lifestyles.

Green Point Park at night

Green Point Park at night