The 12.000 m2 park was opened on the 10th of November 2018, linking the city and Table Bay Harbour, using a series of pedestrian routes, including one alongside the existing canal.
Battery Park is a new urban park that forms the gateway to the V&A Waterfront and integrates Cape Town’s CBD and the V&A Waterfront through a series of pedestrian routes, including one alongside the canal. Visitors to the park are also able to engage in a range of outdoor recreation, entertainment and retail activities in various levels of public spaces.
The brief was to incorporate remnant of a Dutch battery (fortification) with a multi storey parking facility including retail at the canal frontage and multi-use park on the top level, the same level as the heritage battery remnants. Amazing views towards the city and Table Mountain are seen from the park.
The site is of archaeological importance as it still contains the rear ramparts of the historical Amsterdam Battery, one of the oldest structures in Cape Town. Archaeological digs of the area were undertaken prior to construction of the park, and they uncovered the two circular walls which have been retained.
The Amsterdam Battery was constructed by the Dutch in 1784 on the site of an earlier fort (dating back to 1781) to defend Table Bay Harbour from attack. In 1827 the Battery was converted by the British to house prisoners from the Eastern Cape Frontier wars.The Battery was substantially remodelled by the British in 1882. In 1898 it was disbanded. It was partially demolished in 1905 to make way for the harbour and railway network extensions into the dock area. To accentuate the look and feel of the old Battery, stone-filled gabion walls have been used throughout the park.
The requirement to respect the original inner courtyard datum and create a lower-level plaza resulted in an elevated park with views across the V&A and CBD but with the challenge of managing the transition between the two levels. Therefore, a large part of Battery Park’s design concept was manifested in breaking the barrier between the park and plaza and bringing them closer to one another.
As a result, the park level has been designed to gradually lower towards the canal edge providing a closer connection to the plaza, and in turn, the plaza gradually steps down towards the canal. The vision was to create a scale between the two levels and provide visual cues to visitors, offering a glimpse of the park while they meander along the canal edge. This was also achieved by means of various soft and hard landscaping elements such as a grand concrete staircase leading from the plaza to the park, sloping and folding walls, and plants to draw the eye to the park above.
On the elevated park level, visitors can explore gardens with trees and stone-clad planters, meandering walkways with built-in benches, a concrete skatepark, basketball court, and new pedestrian routes. Throughout the park and plaza cantilevered steel pergolas scale the design and provide much-needed shade. The lower plaza level contains 11 boutique retail units that line the splayed canal-facing walls and form an active eastern edge to the new canal pedestrian route.
Most of the vegetation of the park occurs on concrete slab, all planting grows in a soil layer on top of slab. The plant palette is all locally indigenous and planted in clusters to show off the Fynbos flora to international visitors. The landscape design is sensitive towards the historic walls that are omni present, visible from everywhere in the park. The intention behind the plaza was to activate the canal via a range of water sports and provide a link between the V&A and the CBD – encouraging a pedestrianized environment. Referencing the battery’s original façade, stone-filled gabion walls shroud the parking facility and stone-clad planters contain fynbos and water-wise plants. All stone used throughout the park and plaza was excavated from the site during the construction process. These antiquated elements are juxtaposed with contemporary insertions that reference the battery rather than replicate its cultural heritage.
The materials palette includes a selection of hardy elements that suit the robust nature of the park, namely, concrete, stone, and steel. Concrete was chosen as a “material of our time” for new structures as it can be clearly distinguished from historic elements, ensuing little misinterpretation. A precast concrete panel structure dubbed the “interpretation pavilion” has been built to the estimated height of the battery’s original walls and links the park, plaza and parking facility via internal elevators.
To resemble cannon embrasures, three small openings form part of the structure’s canal-facing wall. Historic cannons from Amsterdam Battery found scattered throughout the V&A by the Cannon Association of South Africa and preserved for the development of the park are now on display inside the interpretation pavilion. The artifacts sit on top of precast concrete plinths, made to resemble old timber cannon carriages, allowing them to protrude through the embrasures and overlook the canal.
David Green, V&A Waterfront CEO said: “A key objective of the V&A Waterfront has always been to re-establish the connection between the city and the sea, which we have achieved with the pedestrian path that runs alongside the Canal. Equally important, the ruins of the historic Amsterdam Battery have been retained in the ark as a new heritage site”.
Design: Planning Partners + dhk Architects
Project Location: 19 Dock Rd, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa
Typology: Urban Park
Planning Partners (Pty) Ltd. is a multi-disciplinary firm with a wide range and depth of expertise with regard to urban and regional planning, master planning, project planning and landscape architecture. The firm has clients worldwide and is committed to a holistic approach in which these disciplines are integrated in order to deliver quality environments.
dhk Architects is a design-led multidisciplinary studio incorporating architecture, urban design and interior design. More than 100 people contribute to the success of the company, making dhk one of the largest design practices in Africa. An integrated approach to design coupled with innovative and cost-effective solutions has garnered international recognition and projects spanning four continents.