Landscape architects win top prizes

1 Aug 2017 - 09:00

Stuart Kelly and Saudah Asmal were the winner and runner-up respectively of construction materials company Corobrik’s Most Innovative Final Year Landscape Architecture Award.

If Stuart Kelly’s award-winning thesis idea is implemented, people walking to the Mowbray transport hub, pictured here, will be walking along far more biodiverse footpaths.

The award is given annually to the best UCT Master of Landscape Architecture student for the dissertation that displays the most innovative idea to counteract expanding urbanisation and combat global warming. All graduating master’s students are eligible for the award.

Kelly’s winning thesis looked at the pedestrian routes leading to the Mowbray transport hub, and how grafting different soil types in the area could enable a diverse landscape of plants. Grafting normally refers to combining two plants with a similar genetic makeup to create a modified species.

He aimed to redesign the area along the route where plants grow with a focus on grafting soil types. The idea included installing a synthetic aquifer below the soil to ensure that the plants had enough groundwater. The synthetic aquifer would be lined with a fabric known as a geotextile lining and underground storage tanks would be inserted at varying depths beneath the ground.

This would literally lay the groundwork for placing different types of soil along the route, which would help productive trees to flourish and, more broadly, encourage biodiversity.

Kelly explained that the sub-terrain – the area beneath the earth’s surface – is the foundation for plant growth.

“However, soils found within the urban environment have been negatively impacted and altered by human activity, resulting in poor structure and depleted soils,” he said.

Asmal’s dissertation was titled “Living on the land: Redesigning land use relationships in the Philippi Horticultural Area”. The Philippi Horticultural Area is Cape Town’s bread basket, and there are concerted efforts to protect food and water resources in the area.

“I believe that ensuring protection and sustainability of this marginalised area and its people is necessary to safeguard against food insecurity in the city,” said Asmal.

Dr Julian Raxworthy convene’s the Master of Landscape Architecture programme. Kelly’s unusual focus on soil thoroughly impressed examiners, Raxworthy said.

“The dissertation’s emphasis was on the invisible layers below the surface, which then caused different conditions on the surface,” said Raxworthy. “In addition to the theory, his beautiful graphics really made the ground speak.

“Landscape architecture is a small industry and the attention Corobrik gives really emphasises its importance. Knowing this award exists motivates our students to come up with new ideas,” Raxworthy concluded.

Story by Staff writer. Photograph Robyn Walker