Civil Designer Showcase

Quality Public Spaces for Communities

The re-conceptualisation of 2010 as an urban renewal initiative

The infrastructural benefits associated with the 2010 FIFA World Cup are deemed to be one of the tangible, long-term outcomes and legacies of hosting this mega event. For the City of Cape Town's urban designers and spatial planners, creating public space for public life has been foremost on the agenda. It is this legacy that is fundamental to the life of the city beyond 2010.

"The quality public space projects are the ones that stand out for me because of the difference we are making in communities."

Brendon Abrahams runs his own firm of consulting engineers - BACE Consulting Engineers, and is one of a core of professionals including urban planners and designers, landscape architects, and civil engineers contributing to urban renewal projects around the Cape Town metropolitan.

The Quality Public Space projects as we know them today were conceived on the back of 2010 planning by the City's Executive Directorate and Management Team. One of its main champions was former Executive Director of Strategy and Development at the City of Cape Town, Steve Boshoff.

2010 Legacy
For Boshoff the big question was how to combine the infrastructure development around 2010, the location of public space and accelerated delivery of the dignified places programme? In other words, his main concern was whether the injection of investment for 2010 could simultaneously become an urban renewal initiative for Cape Town?

Boshoff's vision was buoyed by the experiences and lessons of Germany, hosts to the World Cup Soccer event in 2006, which had shown how important non-stadium and fringe events were to communities.

The idea of linking communities and public spaces in a city that had been left with a legacy of spatial and social separation was significant. Pre-1930s planning had ensured that parts of the city, the predominantly affluent areas, were well served by public transport facilities whilst the majority of Cape Town's citizens, located in low-income neighbourhoods on the Cape Flats and surrounds, had to spend excessive time and money traveling to places of work and opportunity.

The City of Cape Town's Manager of Urban Planning, Cedric Daniels says, "We were concerned about the idea of a legacy post 2010. Whilst the initial vision of public spaces did garner support early on it soon became clear that the scale proposed for 70 to 80 public spaces distributed throughout the city and linked through safe public transport systems could not be achieved because of limited resource capacity."

"But whilst we couldn't operationalise community viewing spaces, we had already engaged with sub councils and were adamant that quality public spaces go ahead on a smaller scale. We had now registered the claim of public space as an important issue on the agenda."

Quality & Dignified Public Spaces
So the quality public space and dignified public space programmes had the same motive urban renewal and the provision of opportunities for people to congregate - to enable economic activities and create a sense of place.

In its 2006 Draft Document on the long-term spatial development of Cape Town, the City's Urban Design and Spatial Planning department set out their vision for the Dignified Places Programme:

"Many opportunities exist for new viewpoints, promenades and walkways, and squares and boulevards across the city which would contribute towards the development of a world-class city as well as significantly improve the quality of life attractions for different communities across the city. This includes the development of quality public spaces at high accessibility points, such as transport interchanges, or where community facilities are clustered, as well as the linear street connections between them. The development of these new special urban public places, if done in an integrated and co-ordinated manner, can also lead to the creation of a city-wide network of quality urban spaces."

So the main purpose of the Dignified Places Programme was to achieve high quality public spaces, or "urban living rooms" which would communicate a sense of permanence. To facilitate this, the budgets of many relevant functions would need to be combined to create integrated projects that would achieve far more than the sum of a number of independent initiatives and to direct other sectors, such as housing and transport to reinforce these catalytic places.
Quality Public Spaces | BACE Consulting Engineers

Nyanga Project
The upgrade of the public space in Nyanga is an example of the synthesis between the dignified place and quality public space programmes. The development strategy for the site were coupled to an earlier dignified public places project and comprised 4 components:
  1. The development of a public square at the entrance to the sports complex on Zwelitsha Drive and continuation of the public space upgrade along Zwelitsha Drive to tie in with the existing public space upgrade and in keeping with the Nyanga Spatial Development Framework;
  2. The Upgrade of the play park between the sports complex and Zolani Centre and building of steps and platforms to integrate the park with the public facilities, the sports complex and Great Dutch Street, thus integrating with the proposed Nyanga Indoor Sports Facility.
  3. The development of the roadway between the two entrances to the sports complex as a treed avenue for walking and relaxing in a green environment as a relief from the intense and vibrant urban environment outside the sports complex.
  4. A public space upgrade that connects the Ntlangano Trading Stalls Upgrade to the Great Dutch Street Upgrade.
Reflecting on his experience of working on the Nyanga project, Brendon Abrahams says: "One of the joys in completing the Nyanga site (referring to the play park) was to see how the site developed from nothing to a place that is enjoyed by so many kids playing on the new equipment and enjoying the space and what it offers."

"When we first started on the site, it was very uneven and littered and had been used for the slaughtering of animals. The kickabout area was a challenge as an existing mound of rubble and sand was on the one side of the area. We calculated the quantity of sand and rubble to be removed off site and discovered that it would be too costly to remove all the material. The access rubble was removed and the mound was constructed as an informal grassed stand to view children playing on the kick about area."

The Software
Having the right software was a critical part of the job. Says Abrahams: "We used the Civil Designer package from Knowledge Base to design all final surface levels and to do bulk earthworks calculations. The software made it easy to generate contours and design new surface levels, making the calculations of quantities for tender purposes much faster than the conventional way. It was also extensively used in the construction period to confirm quantities.

For Abrahams, who started his own Consulting Engineering firm in 2006, his involvement on the design, tender documentation and construction monitoring of some of the Quality Public Spaces in the City of Cape Town, has been a personally rewarding experience.

"I have discovered that the upgrading of the community facilities are essential to all communities. It is providing vital services to people's realm. It is providing spaces for young and old."

Speaking on the legacy of 2010 for the city, The Cape Town Partnership's CEO, Andrew Boraine reinforces the significance of public spaces, saying: "The Urban regeneration programme space between buildings is as important as the buildings themselves. History and memory, and the shaping of a new common city identity, often form an integral part of successful urban regeneration strategies."

image Brendon Abrahams: Since qualifying in 1995, his career has encompassed project planning, design and project management experience. From 1995 to 2004, Abrahams was principal technician with the City of Cape Town in the Roads and Stormwater Department. Between 2004 and 2005 he served as Assistant Director of Engineering Services at the Amathole District Municipality in East London followed by his appointment there as Municipal Support Manager in October 2005. Brendon returned to Cape Town with his family with a view to starting his own business. BACE Consulting Engineers was established on 4 December 2006. Abrahams is married and has two children. He still actively participates in his much loved sport, Karate.

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