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Corobrik Inspires Landscape Architects to Rejuvenate Tired Urban Spaces

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In the past, Woodstock used to be a conveniently forgotten area between two bustling highways leading out of Cape Town. Once a vibrant business district, it was caught in a steady downward spiral during the nineties, ultimately becoming the stomping ground for muggers and drug dealers and a no-go area for many Capetonians.

Like downtown Johannesburg, Woodstock has become a beacon of hope in a South Africa where major cities have fallen victim to seemingly unstoppable inner city degeneration. Since 2003, when a business alliance and Cape Town's municipality joined forces to rejuvenate the area, an influx of artists and upwardly mobile citizens has propelled Woodstock upwards, transforming it into a trendy area populated by cool cafes and restaurants, boutique retailers and stylish inner city office space.
This formed the context for an award winning project by 24 year-old University of Cape Town landscape architecture student, Tara McCaughey, who drew on her architectural background and love for nature, the outdoors and public space to put forward a living system that celebrates everyday activities through the creation of a network of public spaces that bring together a hierarchy of both public squares and streetscapes while providing an opportunity for nature's processes to occur.
She collected Corobrik's award for the Most Innovative Final Year Landscape Architecture Project at the University of Cape Town, together with a R8000,00 prize. This award, now in its third year, shows how South Africa's future landscape architects are rising to meet increasingly complex challenges. Whilst the environment and sustainability were important issues within a global context, there were also uniquely South African issues such as escalating urbanization.
Upcoming creatives like Tara McCaughey can combine both practical and design elements to revitalize tired urban spaces and create a positive living experience

McCaughey explains that every day the city plays out its spectacle somewhat unnoticed. This everyday context is full of spontaneity, unpredictability, complexity and, most of all, opportunity. Landscape architecture can act as the mediator between nature and culture and has a profound role to play in allowing these systems to coincide on a daily basis, to create a platform that can begin to unify fragmented spaces within the urban fabric.

Public space becomes the agent for such a platform, where people begin to interact with open systems and one another, where public and private boundaries overlap and where nature is given a space to breathe. It is within this realm that landscape architecture can both enhance and celebrate the everyday, challenging conventional typologies of public space.

She says that, in order to achieve this, she had to understand what the community needed through observation and interaction. The result was safe walking routes and a bridge system that connects opposite sides of the park. This bridge allows for an 'eyes on the street' approach to security whilst also catering for a degree of people watching which, she points out, is one of the aspects people love about public spaces.
Other features include skate and graffiti parks, bus stops and waiting areas, a public 'stage' surrounded by seating that could allow for performances or simply act as a central public gathering point.
. The thesis included day lighting water and allowing it to create a natural wetland area. The bridge interacted with the wetland by allowing natural vegetation to grow up the main support structures and created areas where people could interact with the water's edge and observe nature, she recalls.
Because of the historic aesthetic existing on site, complementary Corobrik products that included the 'autumn paver' and 'autumn hue rock face' were chosen. These products where used for retaining walls and pathways.
McCaughey says that this award comes at an exciting time both in the evolution of South African cities and her career. The award gives me a sense of accomplishment and confidence while I'm entering into the working world!

Tara McCaughey proudly displays her award as winner of this year's Corobrik Landscape Architecture of the year. She is pictured with her course convener at UCT, Clinton Hindes and Allistair Cloete, Architectural Representative at Corobrik.