Urban exploration

The group who participated in the Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) Urban Design Committee Global Walking Tour.

Cape Town became the first African city to join the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) Urban Design Committee Global Walking Tour, and was among about 26 cities around the world that hosted walks through their city centres on Thursday June 27.

The walk happened at the same time in every country and, in Cape Town, was facilitated by the V&A Waterfront.

It was a conversation between developers, council officials, and urban design experts about tall buildings in the city, a reflection on its history and what can be done in future to make the city better.

According to the CTBUH website, the council is a global NGO for professionals focused on the inception, design, construction, and operation of tall buildings and future cities.

CTBUH facilitates the exchange of the latest knowledge available on tall buildings around the world through publications, research, events, working groups, web resources, and its extensive network of international representatives.

The council’s research department is spearheading the investigation of the next generation of tall buildings by aiding original research on sustainability and key development issues.

The council is made up of architects, engineers, researchers and lecturers around the world who contribute to the organisation’s research, workshops and conversations.

The Urban Habitat committee, a leg of the CTBUH, focuses on the role of tall buildings within a city and how those tall buildings affect the quality of life for those that live or work within or near them.

The Global Walking Tours have been held since 2014 to explore, first-hand, the aspects of urban habitat that make cities great.

This was the first year that Cape Town joined the tour.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Council and the 10th World Congress – an annual summit held by the council in Chicago – this year’s tours will follow the 50 Forward 50 Back theme, reflecting on recent history and looking to the sustainable future of cities around the world.

The buildings included in the tour were the Westin AC Marriott Hotel, Metlife Centre, the Civic Centre, the Towers, 1 Adderley Street (the concourse), the Tsogo Sun building, Portside and the Silo at the Waterfront.

The tour started at the field opposite the Cullinan Hotel, where new developments on the Foreshore was discussed. The land was recently purchased by Tsogo Sun for another hotel development.

Director at GAPP Architects and Urban Designers Barbara Southworth, said there was great potential for developers and the city to unlock on the Foreshore.

“There are some spots that don’t connect pieces of the city. There are major developments on the cards for the Foreshore area, and it would be interesting to see how those connect the dots.”

Several new hotel developments are on the cards in the Foreshore, including a new five-star hotel set to go up on Walter Sisulu Avenue, opposite the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) following the sale of housing company Communicare’s five-storey building at Roggebaai Square, which also formed part of the walking tour. The building was bought by an international buyer for R120 million.

More information about the development remains to be released as the owners declined to be named at this stage.

A R10 billion mixed use development, called Harbour Arch, is also on the cards (“Mixed reaction to R10bn complex”, CapeTowner, October 26, 2017).

Bobby Gould-Pratt, also of GAPP Architects, said there were opportunities for the city to grow the public spaces around the city, and that a conversation should be started on how to improve public space.

The Towers in Heerengracht Street was used as an example of how public space should work.

The building, which houses Food Lover’s Market, has incorporated benches as well as a recycled water feature where people can sit and enjoy lunch breaks.

The Station Deck was also a feature in the tour, and Miss Southworth shared with the group, the City’s vision the City had for the space. “Part of the vision was to have elevated walkways and cars driving underneath in the roads, that’s why the deck is elevated.”

The director of urban development NPO Future Cape Town, Rashiq Fataar, said while he had heard of plans to build tall buildings around the station square in Adderley Street, there was a debate about taking away public space.

However, he said, it may help the space as it will make it safer.

Mr Fataar said it was interesting to see that most historical buildings as well as newer buildings still had a common element of street level interaction. He said the conversation could and should continue as Cape Town becomes a more dense city.

“Tall buildings don’t have to have a negative impact on the city when you consider the space as a whole.”

He said people should start interrogating the use of buildings in the city and question why they do not engage with the ground level, and why it is not more welcoming. “Regardless of the height of the building, it should be interactive and friendly, and should contribute to the city – not only during office hours.