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Junya Ishigama on the cover of the October 2019 issue of Azure Magazine. The Innovators Issue.

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Hot on the heels of 2017’s Zeitz MOCAA/Silo Hotel complex – Heatherwick Studio’s globally lauded repurposing of decommissioned grain silos in Cape Town, South Africa – comes another ambitious waterfront project in the city: Battery Park, a 1.2-hectare canalside oasis by local firm dhk Architects, whose mandate could be regarded as even more daunting than that of Heatherwick.

In addition to serving as a key entry point to the V&A Waterfront, one of Cape Town’s most visited tourist destinations, Battery Park also had to camouflage a 1,206-spot parking garage, reinvigorate its underused Canal District location with new attractions and amenities, serve as a link to surrounding neighbourhoods and do justice to its historic precursor: the Amsterdam Battery, a one-time fort and then prison erected by Dutch colonists in 1784.

Battery Park Cape Town
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1The present-day canal sits some eight metres below the original battery site, to which it’s connected via stairs and elevators.

2The new canalside piazza steps right down to the water, facilitating activities such as kayaking.

3An axial visual link between the raised park and Signal Hill (right) was main- tained to preserve a historic sightline.

4Loosely packed stones excavated during the park’s construction fill out sloping gabion walls that echo long-ago ramparts.

In the end, it was the battery’s original footprint that provided the blueprint for dhk’s design, which consists of an elevated sports and recreation area that gradually descends to a waterside piazza fronting 11 retail units. The raised area, which includes landscaped gardens, a concrete skatepark, a basketball court and new pedestrian routes, sits where the battery’s inner courtyard once did, while splayed gabion walls shrouding the parking facility beneath it evoke the fort’s long-demolished facade. 

At piazza level, the new pedestrian zone, which includes fresh links to Cape Town’s Central Business District, steps right down to the canal, where a host of water sports can now be enjoyed.

“The intention,” says dhk’s Pierre Swanepoel, the project’s lead architect, “was to facilitate a new hub of activity while being respectful of the Amsterdam Battery, once a place of exclusion and incarceration, but now a public space designed to support and engage the greater Cape Town community.” 

dhk’s Battery Park Revitalizes the Cape Town Waterfront

On the site of a historic fort,
a new park adroitly blends past and present in the South African metropolis.

AZURE is an independent magazine working to bring you the best in design, architecture and interiors. We rely on advertising revenue to support the creative content on our site. Please consider whitelisting our site in your settings, or pausing your adblocker while stopping by.