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