Published May 2021
Publication: Landscape SA Magazine
Photography: Bureaux / Mark Honeyman


32 Upper Clarens is a nine-unit apartment building situated in Fresnaye, Cape Town, in walking distance to the Sea Point amenities and promenade.

A new modernist approach needn’t result in brutal, stiff environments as Clarens has shown. Welcoming, habitable spaces contribute to a more meaningful connection between inside and outside spaces. Square One Landscape Architects were inspired by the work of the Bauhaus artist László Moholy- Nagy to interact with the modernist lines and approach of the architecture.

Clarens bears testimony to the fact that being stuck at home needn’t be dreary and that when architects, landscape architects and inspired clients work together, the result is excellent.

Using local materials made specifically for the project, and referencing the modern movement of design, the architecture and landscape is a product of the belief that style will last beyond fleeting fashions. Environmentally conscious, thoughtful design improves the user’s way of living. The generous building envelope creates a diverse range of living spaces and seamlessly connects interior and exterior experiences.

IMG_1245e_Low Res

Brief and design approach

The client requested their new building to be enveloped by lush planting and Square One focussed on texture and colour variation, which the client particularly liked. The soft landscaping is a combination of indigenous and exotic material, including trees, shrubs, bulbs, perennials and groundcovers.

Square One’s approach to planting design is to create dynamic landscapes that respond to the site. The Clarens design bares testimony to their planting design which always has ‘something new and exciting to offer.’ With the planting approach, they focussed especially on seasonality and texture.

They worked with the architects and main contractor to ensure that all storm water is collected in harvesting tanks in the basement, which in turn is used for irrigation. At the onset of this project, Cape Town was experiencing severe drought and the design therefore ensured that decisions responded accordingly.


Landscape installation

This was undertaken by AfriLandscapes, whose scope of work included the following:

  • Earthworks: built-up planters, ground floor drainage layer works, supply and installation of the drainage system, drainage layers and geotextiles.
  • Trafficable gravel areas: supply, deliver and install BERA gravel fix stabilisation system to all trafficable gravel areas, as well as a layer of Worcester stone to all trafficable areas on the Bera Gravel fix stabilisation system.
  • Steel edging: supply and installation of Perma edge pre-galvanised steel edging.
  • Ceramic planter boxes: installation of ceramic planters to ground floor units and upper landings.
  • Supply and installation of steel planter boxes, tree stakes and sleeper steps.
  • Soil preparation: supply, placing and spreading of imported soil mix to planters.
  • Install a fully automated drip irrigation system.

The site presented several challenges, including the co-ordinating of trucks and deliveries in a narrow road, no access through the building, exceptionally strong winds, and the planting of a 1000L Frangipani tree (Plumeria rubra) at the penthouse using a crane truck to hoist the tree to the top of the building. The road had to be closed off during this process, after obtaining approval from the City of Cape Town.


It required some clever thinking to secure the Frangipani tree during a brutal windstorm in September/October 2020, and AfriLandscapes and Square One had to quickly find a solution when the tree was battered by the prevailing winds. By using a series of stainless steel wires and eyebolts, the tree was secured and is now thriving.

Afrilandscapes installed a drip irrigation system with separate controllers for each unit, and this system is connected to water harvesting tanks in the basement of the building. Rainwater is collected in the tanks, as is excess water that drains from the planters. This ensures that no water is lost, but rather re-directed back to the tanks.

Project Team

Link to Landscape SA Magazine Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.