The joy is in creating a living environment
Innovative thinking and project team collaboration leads to a unique landscape success for a Cape Town development.
Every once in a while there is a perfect match between a client and their contracting team, and when that happens, a successful project is virtually guaranteed to be the outcome.
And so, it is with the relationship between Contours Design Studio (CDS) and Aquacor, the developers of StayMelville, that a revolutionary new development has become the talking point in “new age” thinking in the Cape Town suburb of Ottery.
Brimming with pride in what has been achieved in close partnership with Aquacor directors, Matthew Quinton, Michael Morris and renowned landscape architect, Clare Burgess, Contours Design Studio head designer, Cara Smith, talks enthusiastically of how StayMelville is a “vibrant living space” for its owners and tenants rather than simply a development in which they live.
This has been achieved by futuristic planning at the concept stage, which resolved that all green spaces would double up where possible as miniature gardens in which residents could plant and harvest salad bowls of fresh produce at their front door, and create a dynamic outdoor lifestyle to feel safe, to explore, where neighbours are familiar faces, where kids and friends are always welcome and with spaces for culture to grow. Outdoor facilities such as basketball, kiddies pump track, jogging paths, 5 a-side soccer, and a skate park were all added for that reason.
“Our plant selection was also critical,” says Cara. “We wanted plants that are hardy, that don’t require copious amounts of water and that can happily survive the extremes of weather in Cape Town, which includes the strong seasonal south-easterly winds, particularly in this area.
Apart from greening the parking areas with trees, shrubs and developing “salad gardens” in the car park beds, the CDS team also planted climbing vegetables such as squash, cucumber and baby marrow to find their way up the railings for second-floor tenants. Evergreen creepers were added between individual units to offer screening, seasonal colour and to create an atmosphere of privacy for the residents. These included a mix of granadillas, star jasmine and Senecio tamoides.
“Owners and tenants will be mostly families with small children who will want to enjoy their living space. So we needed to create recreational areas with vegetation that would be able to take wear and tear and still thrive,” says Cara. For this reason, Aristidia and Eragrostis indigenous grasses mixed with winter flowering Kniphofia and summer flowering Aloe cooperi were the perfect combinations.
Another innovative aspect of CDS engagement with the StayMelville development is the team’s decision to not only source plants from local nurseries, but to train a group of local people to maintain the gardens, verges and installations at the estate.
“While the beauty of this project is the low maintenance aspect of the landscaping, we do need trained staff to maintain the installation. So we have sent a number of local people for intensive training and engaged local suppliers to be part of the wider StayMelville community.
“What I have learned from being part of this dynamic team is that you cannot place enough value on bringing your key disciplines in at the planning or even conceptual phase.
“The rewards of that inclusive attitude are clear to see, not only with the landscape contractors but with everyone involved with this project.
“I am also convinced that the pioneering approach to this development, with the emphasis on creating a tangible living space for residents to enjoy, is a key to its success.
“After working during office hours when the residents are often out working, it was wonderful to come here early one morning to see people really enjoying the shared spaces, walking on the circular path, planting their own herbs and simply just enjoying being at home here.
“This was the aim of the developers and as far as I am concerned they have succeeded beyond, I believe, even their own imaginations.”
Cara Smith is the head designer of Cape Town-based landscape design company, Contours Design Studio.
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