Legacy in Architecture: Chapter four


In this, the final chapter on Legacy, I discuss the valuable contribution that landscape architects make to the design professions and, more importantly, the definition of our urban environments. The main, but not exclusive focus of landscape architects is the design of spaces between buildings, the most important aspect being the organization, manipulation and articulation of the ground plane.

In 2010, Tarna Kliztner Landscape Architect1 was approached by the City of Cape Town (in partnership with the German Development Bank) to undertake an urban renewal project together with a range of built environment professionals. The project was informed by the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) Programme and involved the design of a network of play courts, school play grounds, commercial squares and pedestrian linkages, in one of the most dangerous areas in South Africa, Harare in Khyalitsha.

TKLA 12 Aerial View From Steve Biko Bridge Over The Walkways Links Towards Harare Square

Aerial View from Steve Biko bridge over the Walkways Links towards Harare Square,  (Klitzner, 2013).


The Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading Programme is "a comprehensive area-based community development programme that aims at safe and integrated communities, citizenship, pride and the improvement of quality of life for the residents in local neighbourhoods" (Ewing, 2015: 28). According to the City of Cape Town the VPUU "project is a holistic approach to urban upgrading that is unique in the Cape Town context in the way that it has integrated all forms of development and not only the physical upgrading of urban spaces". (www.capetown.gov.za/en/MetroPolice2/Pages/Violence-prevention.aspx.)

The aspects of the VPUU programme are prevention, cohesion and protection focussed through research and development (www.vpuu.org.za). The principles of the program are surveillance and visibility (eyes on the street), territoriality (“owned” spaces), defined access and movement, image and aesthetics (dignity), physical barriers and maintenance and management (pride and ownership) (www.capetown.gov.za/en/MetroPolice2/Pages/Violence-prevention.aspx). To date a number of projects have been completed in the Western Cape, namely, Harare, Gugulethu, Nyanga, the Heights, Villiersdorp and Paarl East.

IMG 4150

Aerial View from Steve Biko bridge over the Walkways Links towards Harare Square (Klitzner, 2013).


Klitzner (2010:1) believes that the "unravelling  of the layers and discovering the hidden is probably for us as landscape architects one of the most exciting processes that we engage in, in our endeavour to understand what is intrinsic and specific about place". She refers to the informal settlements of the Cape Flats as "neglected, fringe landscapes". They are legacies of Apartheid urban removals and increasingly, urban migration. Waterlogged in winter and windswept in summer, these sites have developed informally and incrementally over time, with little urban structure or legible spatial hierarchy.

To create safer spaces an urban infrastructure was proposed that established a number of 'safe nodes' between Khyalitsha railway station and Harare square, all linked by a paved, and well lit, pedestrian walkway with associated spaces such as playgrounds and sports fields.

IMG 4171

Landscape elements: paving, Calcrete clad tree boxes which provide seating and 'latte' tree cages (Klitzner, 2013).

Landscape architecture

The main landscape elements employed in Harare comprise of a range of hard surfaces that form courtyards and public walkways using precast concrete pavers with borders to define scale, movement routes and edges. These approaches reinforced the definition of space and 'eyes on the street" through new buildings and street lighting that increased visibility and improved safety  at night. Other elements used to define external space were pavements, stairs, steps, ramps, seats, bollards, low walls, planter boxes and tree cages. Low walls between houses and courts create privacy, fostering the possibility of houses opening up toward the public squares. "The seats and walls vary in width from 600mm to 1m wide, this was in response to the scale of the site as well as to facilitate comfortable seating, play and trade surfaces" (Klitzner, 2010:6).

TKLA 1 Harare Square Public Fore Court

Mosaic clad rubbish bin with Calcrete clad wall and steps to define public and less public areas  (Klitzner, 2013).

The landscape architecture is socially sustainable through "human resource skilling as well as natural resource utilization" (Klitzner, 2010:7). Landscape elements are articulated by mosaic work through community partnerships and training. Environmental sustainability is achieved through the treatment of on-site water by recessing playing fields to deal with winter flooding and irrigation by borehole water in summer. Renewable resources include Calcrete that is sourced from the site and used as facings for walls, while situ concrete elements were prepared on site. Trees were chosen for their resilience (Klitzner, 2010:8). The ethics of using steel tree cages against goats was later questioned, and although the design and manufacture of these cages through community participation had fostered new welding businesses, 'latte' structures were later adopted.

Dealing with spatial legacy

Landscape architects make a valuable contribution to the design of our environments. In Harare, the spatial and physical structure that has been created through well surveiled, and lit, walkways and squares has resulted in a 33% decrease in murders since the completion of the project  (http://dirt.asla.org/2014/05/01/in-cape-town-urban-design-reduces-violence/). The design of spaces between buildings is just as important as the structures we inhabit - we can do well to acknowledge the relationship between landscape architecture and other built environment approaches.

TKLA 10 Walkways Links Seating Walls Designed As Wide Platforms To Accomodate A Variety Of Uses

Bollards and wider seating platform to define pedestrian zone has now become an opportunity for trade and shade!  (Klitzner, 2013).


The project team responsible for all the aspects of the VAPOUR scheme was:

  • "Project Managers: SUN Development/ AHT Group AG; VPUU
  • Urban Designers/Planners: SUN Development; Macroplan
  • Architects: Jonker and Barnes  with Jackie James; Charlotte Chamberlain and Nicola Irving Architects CCNIA
  • Engineers: Naylor Naylor van Schalkwyk
  • Quantity Surveyor: Talani
  • Landscape Architects: Tarna Klitzner Landscape Architects (TKLA)
  • Community Participation: City of Cape Town/VPUU; Khyalitsha Development Forum
  • Operation and Maintenance:  SUN Development; VPUU/City of Cape Town;
  • Socio- Economic Interventions: SUN Development; VPUU City of Cape Town
  • A host of NGO’s including Mosaic anti gender based violence, UWC Legal Aid Clinic, Sikhula Sonke ECD, Business Place Khyalitsha SMME support, Metro Police, Safety volunteers from the community" (http://worldlandscapearchitect.com/vpuu-harare-khyalitsha-cape-town-south-africa-tarna-klitzner-landscape-architects/)


  1. 1. Ewing, K. 2015. Violence Prevention Through Urban Upgrading. Architecture South Africa. Issue 71. Jan/Feb 2015. p28-30
  2. 2. http://aplust.net/blog/tarna_klitzner_jonker_and_barnes_khayelitsha_urban_upgrading_cape_town_south_africa/ [accessed 15 July 2015]
  3. 3. http://dirt.asla.org/2014/05/01/in-cape-town-urban-design-reduces-violence/ [accessed 15 July 2015]
  4. 4. http://worldlandscapearchitect.com/vpuu-harare-khyalitsha-cape-town-south-africa-tarna-klitzner-landscape-architects/ [accessed 15 July 2015]
  5. 5. http://www.vpuu.org.za/ [accessed 16 June 2015]
  6. 6. https://www.capetown.gov.za/en/MetroPolice2/Pages/Violence-prevention.aspx [accessed 16 June 2015]
  7. 7. Klitzner, T. 2010. Institute of Landscape Architects (ILASA) presentation. May
  8. 8. Klitzner, T. 2015. Personal email and telephonic communication with the director of Tarna Kliztner Landscape Architects. 9 June 2015