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Location: Green Point Common, Cape Town
Client: City of Cape Town
Landscape Architects: OvP Associates
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.
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.
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.