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The water sensitive design theme for the Institute for Landscape Architects South Africa’s recent merit awards resonates with Cape Town’s recent drought experience and was selected as a way to promote water sensitive design within the landscape architecture profession. Keynote speaker Professor Neil Armitage from UCT’s Future Water Institute noted the pivotal role that landscape architects hold in realising projects that build resilience and move cities towards water sensitivity through the open space projects they design. Promoting best practice in water sensitive design is therefore key to delivering design excellence and water sensitive, resilient cities. Hosted at the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset West, the event was dominated by Cape Town’s design teams with a third of those recognised at the Merit Awards located in the Mother City and a further three located in the Western Cape.

Notable winners include CnDV Landscape Architects that won three awards including a design award, the Just Trees Award and the Tshala (Plant Brokers) Environmental Sensitivity Award. Their design for the Bosjes Chapel located in Worcester, transformed a run-down farm to an instantly recognisable, international tourist destination by the construction of an eye-catching Chapel and landscape. The Chapel garden is comprised of interconnected and distinctive landscape “rooms”, each evoking particular emotions in the user. The design elements and their soft landscaping are subtly inspired by Biblical references with a strong representation of water throughout the landscape.

Whilst not featuring water sensitive design as a specific design element, the Southernmost Tip of Africa Icon Project delivers an iconic tourist destination. The creative team, led by landscape architect Bernhard Oberholzer, establishes the southernmost point as an attraction in the Cape Agulhas region by embracing its physical and spiritual attributes into the design. The landscape architect’s creative collaboration with artists and land artists is evident in the built project that is a memorable destination that celebrates the Cape Agulhas’s unique sense of place whilst adding to the Western Cape’s tourism economy.

In contrast, the Stellenbosch Municipality Heritage Inventory and Conservation Management Plan is a publication rather than a built landscape project. The project received multiple awards including an award in the publication category and the prestigious President’s Award. Prepared in collaboration by a Cape Town-based team led by landscape architect, Liana Jansen and urban designer Fabio Todeschini, this work sets the bar for conservation planning and management. The quality and robustness of the approach and methodologies that include pre-colonial and post-colonial elements will inform future research and site assessments of cultural landscapes in the Western Cape. Scoring an average of over 95% from the national judges, it frames the importance of “the landscape” as a cultural and heritage resource and provides an enduring asset to the profession of landscape architecture both nationally and internationally.

Cape Town’s landscape architects have certainly met the challenge of contributing towards the creation of resilient, water sensitive cities and embedding a water sensitive design approach more broadly across the built environment professions will be a challenge that the Institute for Landscape Architects South Africa will continue to pursue.

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