Described as the future Manhatten of Johannesburg, Park Central in Rosebank is a highend, 20 storey apartment building close to the Gautrain station in this densely populated business area. Between the building and the Rosebank Library is the existing EWP Public Park, which has been upgraded to add further value to this two-part project.
The existing park adjacent to the building was upgraded to improve pedestrian movement between Keyes and Sturdee Avenues. It falls within a larger master plan for the linking of green spaces within Rosebank.
Landscape architect Karen Marais of The Ochre Office says her brief for the apartment building was to select hardy, evergreen, low maintenance plants.
The architects, Paragon Group, had already designed the planter structures on the various apartment levels and he client wanted continuity to run through these levels.
Marais says she was working with zones where planters extended from sun to shade areas, north and south of the building, and she therefore chose ‘trusted’ exotic plants, introducing hardy indigenous species where possible for colour and effect.
In terms of the adjacent park, its upgrade was done according to an agreement that Redefine Properties had made during the approval phase of their development rights. They were to make a contribution to public open space in the Rosebank area, and the park was the chosen portion of land to be upgraded. The park falls within a larger masterplan for the linking of green spaces within Rosebank, and its upgrade needed to fit within the masterplan, bringing in improved access and pedestrian routes.
Landscape design philosophy
For the apartments, the design philosophy was to create neat and uncomplicated greening, with colour in key areas moving up from the street, through the lower parking levels and up to the sky gardens and roof terrace. A vertical green wall has been installed in the entrance lobby. It was designed by Beverley Ogden of Bidvest Execuflora, working with Karen Marais, and the plant design and selection was done by Shaun Armand. The Vicinity wall system holds 170 plants, which are watered twice a week. Bidvest Execuflora also undertakes the maintenance of the wall and plants, replacing them when necessary and trimming them so that they retain their shape. They also carry out pest control if required and ensure that
the lighting is correctly angled.
The wall presents a pleasing entrance statement in the foyer of the building.
For the park, Marais says she wanted to ensure safe and usable pathways, facilitating the well-used pedestrian routes through the open space. The paths were widened to make them wheelchairfriendly and to ensure that the design connected the various access points.
Looking down onto the park from the apartments was also an important design aspect. Marais says the pathways needed to flow smoothly in order to define a harmonius and calming form, whilst still allowing for future interventions such as sports or play areas. A planted barrier between the pathways and the apartment building prevents the public from moving too close to the apartment boundary, and provides a soft and colourful space.
Midway through the project, the client was asked to include into the scheme a neighbouring portion of the park erf closest to the library; pathways and security fencing were extended.
Marais says that from a design point of view, the most difficult aspect was sufficiently greening the southern shady zones of the building. Many of the
apartments open to the south and have views onto the fourth floor parking deck.
She specified screening plants such as Viburnum, Syzigium paniculatum, Murraya exotica and Trachelospermum jasminoides in order to ensure durable, all year round greening in these spaces.
With regard to the park site, the challenge was the fact that it included a portion of land that was a large asphalt parking area, and this zone was almost permanently used as an unofficial taxi and bus parking zone. Marais absorbed this entire area into the park, lifting the hard surface and decompacting the ground. This change to public utilisation needed to be carefully dealt with as the taxi associations did not support it, and it became necessary to mitigate any potential danger and unrest.
Levels through the park were also treated carefully; the boundary along the edge of the apartment building was a difficult zone as security and stormwater control needed to be accommodated with minimal impact on the park design and the budget. FSG Landscaping moved a large volume of soil to ensure that the scheme could work.
Soft and hard planting
The plant palette for the sky gardens was straightforward but street edge and roof terrace planting allowed Marais to be “a little more adventurous.” On the roof terrace, it was essential to ensure that planting could sustain exposure to the harsh sun, high winds, heat and winter cold.
The park contains only indigenous plant material, allowing for sun and shade planting borders to be easily maintained.
Instant Kikuyu grass was planted however, permitting the public to use the open grass areas for rest or play. To this end, picnic tables and linear facebrick seating walls were provided.
Pathways are constructed of Corobrick Graphite and Infraset Rossway pavers in an attractive charcoal colour. The boundary wall was designed by the architects and
falls within the aesthetic of a neighbouring park across the road on Keyes Avenue.
Corobrik facebrick was again used to connect the theme through the park.
Environmental aspects and challenges
Marais says the design of the park required a number of presentations to the various stakeholders. Redefine’s Development Department secured the necessary approvals from the required parties, including Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo (JCPZ), Joburg Heritage,
Johannesburg Urban Forest Alliance (JUFA) and the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA).
She also held several meetings with the Department of Environmental Affairs to obtain permission to fell a number of exotic trees in the area. This was done taking into account the fact that existing owl populations require nesting spots in urban areas.
After considerable negotiations, permission was granted to fell a number of pine, poplar and tipuana trees, many of which were very old and structurally impaired due to having been infected by the Shothole Borer beetle, or hollowed out by vagrants’ fires. Their removal allows for much more light to enter the park space, enabling the planting of lawn and shrubs in previously bare areas. Marais also designed for several new indigenous trees
to be planted.
Despite the lengthy delays in obtaining various Local Authority approvals, the park landscaping was initiated very close to completion of the principal building project.
On site environmental challenges were:
• Old trees with dying branches posing a public safety risk;
• trees along the boundary of Park Central which had lost their roots during excavation of the basement;
• vagrants living in the park, with pollution, littering, damage to trees by fires made by them, and a safety risk to the public using the space between
Keyes and Sturdee Avenues;
• a derelict state of the soft landscaping, paving and fencing;
• a parking area used mostly by people buying drugs from the lingering dealers.
Adopt a Park
In February 2019, Redefine was informed
of the “Adopt a Park” route towards
approval and a design proposal was
tabled, addressing the following aspects:
• removal of trees deemed risky;
• demolition and rehabilitation of the
abovementioned parking area;
• earthworks/shaping of the park
to form berms which would slow
down stormwater runoff, encourage
absorption of water and reduce the risk
• paved pathways to improve pedestrian
movement between Sturdee and Keyes
Avenues. This forms an integral part
of the Rosebank Crosswalk between
Jan Smuts Avenue and Oxford Road.
Exisiting pathway routes were re352-(&7
Above and below: Level 21 of the building, the clubhouse and pool. Plants on this level are
hardy and wind resistant as the area is very exposed. They have been planted on the outer edge
of a transparent enclosure wall.
Landscape SA • Issue 92 2020 11
aligned, taking into consideration the
external feeder routes;
• artwork to a ‘dead’ wall on the eastern
end of the park. Unity Murals applied
beautiful colour to this boundary wall,
enhancing a fairly dark corner;
• the inclusion of picnic tables and
• the re-instatement of lawn and suitable
plant species in flower beds, and the
introduction of new, indigenous trees.
Old trees were pruned and crowns lifted;
• the existing fence on the Keyes Avenue
interface was in a poor state and routed
around the old parking area. This was
replaced with a new boundary fence
and wall with similar architectural
language to that of the park across the
street. Access gates were aligned with
the pedestrian routes inside the park
and external feeder routes;
• in addition to the park upgrade,
maintenance responsibility was
offered for a period of five years. This
includes the upkeep of landscaping and
infrastructure, as well as locking the park
between 6pm and 6am. This has proved
effective in discouraging vagrants from
re-establishing themselves in the park.
Although the park is a public facility,
activities contravening public bylaws
must be discouraged;
• the above proposal had to go through
a process of obtaining technical input
from JCPZ, environmental input on
identifying trees for removal (City of
Joburg: Compliance Monitoring and
Enforcement) and public participation
with various community action forums
such as JUFA (Johannesburg Urban
Forest Alliance), RAG (Rosebank Action
Group) and the Johannesburg Heritage
Foundation. Based on inputs received,
the park design was updated and an
‘adoption agreement’ was entered into
by Redefine and JCPZ.
This was undertaken by Elton Fohren
of FSG Landscaping, whose biggest
challenge was the fact that plant material
had to be carried up manually onto the
various levels. Only at levels 20 and 21 was
a tower crane allowed to be used. “There
was no space for a mobile crane to be set
up, so all plants, soil and potting mix was
carried up by hand. We had a labour force
of 25 people, forming a chain and passing
bags to each other,” he explains.
In addition, the deadlines imposed by the
main contractor were strict and for this
reason, Fohren and his team were required
to begin work on site three months before
their actual commencement date.
During a walk through the apartment
building and the adjacent park, Fohren
made the following points:
• plant beds at street level are shaped to
mimic the shape of the building itself,
following a zig-zag type of pattern;
• drip irrigation has been installed for
plants throughout the building;
• screen planting is used on the various
• on level 21, the clubhouse and pool
are for use by all residents – plants in
this area are hardy and wind resistant
as the area is very exposed. Juncus
krausii, Chondropetalum, Kniphofia
praecox, Agapanthus and Dietes have
been planted on the outer edge of a
transparent enclosure wall;
• due to the fact that work was undertaken
at this high level, the staff members
involved underwent specific training
and medical checks, working under the
supervision of a health and safety officer
to ensure that they were medically fit to
work at such heights;
• the facebrick of the park’s wall matches
that of a building across the road;
• planting in the park has been done in
swathes as opposed to straight lines;
• there is a four metre fall from the top of
the park to the street, and gentle berms
were constructed to slow down the flow
• water is channelled to underground
tanks for storage, eliminating the need
to use municipal water.
As per the contract with Redefine, FSG
Landscaping has a three year maintenance
contract for the park, after which it will be
taken over by JCPZ.