In 2002, the then municipal manager of Cape Agulhas municipality, Keith Jordaan, asked me for ideas to improve the area for tourism. I gave him three ideas:
- Create a world class, iconic site at Cape Agulhas to celebrate it as the southernmost tip of the African continent and where two oceans meet.
- Napier was a dry and boring little village then with a largely ugly main street, so I suggested removing half of every third parking bay — which are rarely used — to plant an avenue of trees. (The sidewalks were too narrow for planting.)
- Restore Bredasdorp’s old railway station — the southernmost on the African continent — and get tourist trains running there… steam trains preferably.
I discussed these with my old friend and respected colleague, David Jack, on his farm outside Napier over breakfast one morning. There are few people whose judgement I trust more. He was enthused by the ideas, and started telling me about the work of an American landscape architect he had seen recently, which would be so appropriate for Cape Agulhas. We spoke about a competition for designs and a possible champion, when we discovered that the then-CEO of the WWF had a house in nearby Struisbaai.
For Napier, Dave asked me to tell the municipal manager that he would donate the trees! I did, and at a subsequent municipal meeting I was asked to repeat the offer. The official responsible for services said he couldn’t allow it because it would mean raking up leaves!
In 2014 I became aware of a competition for the design of an iconic site at Cape Agulhas. I read the competition document and found it a bit wishy-washy, so I called one of the judges — the late Fabio Todeschini. He wasn’t aware that he was one of the judges and hadn’t formally accepted any invitation! So I wasn’t going to hold any high hopes…
Then Bernie Oberholzer, a landscape architect I’ve known and respected for decades, recently asked if I had been to see the iconic site. He sent me information about it… and I started looking forward to seeing it with eager anticipation. Might they have just got this right?
It’s against that background that I visit the so-called iconic site.
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