A Premise

A legacy of Cape Town’s spatial planning history are a number of large, well-located remnant pieces of land that are currently vacant or under-utilised. Swartklip, a 500Ha former weapons testing and manufacturing site owned by Denel, is one such significant land holding that has recently been released and bought by the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA).

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Metropolitan Context

Barrier to Integration

The site is situated in the Metro South-East, with access to the N2 highway, and in close proximity to the airport. Historically, the site was established as a tool of spatial division between the two largest racially divided communities of the city, the suburbs of Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha. The current racial population distribution across the metropolitan shows that very little has happened in the way of breaking through the “spacial legacy” of apartheid to becoming a more integrated society.


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Racial population distribution mapping adapted from Adrian Frith

Underutilised Land Parcel

The site is nestled between two of the poorest neighbourhoods in the city with high levels of crime and unemployment. The site has the potential to become a source of work opportunity for the surrounding community and an economic generator and attractor for investment.

Infrastructural Landscape

Swartklip also forms part of the city’s coastal biodivesity network, characterised by a series of undulating forested dunes and wetlands that have formed from the prevailing coastal winds. Reinforcing the site connection to the coast, mitigating the threat of development and the degradation of the natural resources is critical to maintain a balance of the city’s ecosystem.

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Site diagram depicting dune and wetland system, existing buildings and movement networks across the site

A key question at the metropolitan scale is what role the site can play for the spatial restructuring of the city? How can the redevelopment of Swartklip integrate the neighbouring communities and overcome the spatial divisions? Swartklip re-envisioned as productive landscape. An attractor for investment and promoter of opportunity. Site for a circular economy.


Other large national parcels of land in Cape Town include Wingfield Aerodrome, Youngsfield Military Base, Culemborg Industrial Area, much of District Six and the Athlone Power Station, among others.

The racial population distribution maps were produced by Capetonian software developer and cartographer, Adrian Frith, using data from census 2011 and 2001.


An Epigraph

“All men in their native powers are craftsmen,
whose destiny it is to create…
a fit abiding place,
a sane and beautiful world.”

– Louis Henry Sullivan , January 27, 1924

Towards the Management of Territorial Forces in Hout Bay

How can the natural and anthropological systems of Hout Bay co-exist to contribute to urban resilience across scales?

Conflicts between urban growth and landscape protection for sustainable development have been the subject of discussion worldwide since the late 1980s. Although humans have interacted with the biophysical environment since the beginning of human history, the scope and intensity of these anthropological interactions have increased dramatically since the Industrial Revolution. Historically, most human-nature interactions took place at the local scale, although there were some large-scale human migrations and other broad activities, such as trade and wars. However, present interactions between natural and human systems at the regional, continental, and global scales have emerged as special concerns because human survival is dependent on the conditions and resources available in the natural environment.

Natural systems undergo processes, flows, and rhythms that differ from those of urban socio-cultural systems. While the former takes place over eras or epochs, the latter, in contrast, may occur within shorter periods of years or even months but with adverse affects on the sensitive natural systems. The magnitude and accelerating rate of contemporary urbanization is reshaping land use locally and globally in ways that require a re-examination of how natural-human systems relate to each other.  The interrelations among these systems, which vary spatially and temporally, result in territorial forces which effect sustainability and urban resilience.

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The study area of the Hout Bay River catchment represents a microcosm of the development challenges facing Cape Town and South Africa; including densification, unemployment, social division, and the mismanagement of environmental systems. Hout Bay is a largely residential development situated on the western edge of the Cape Peninsula, 22km away from the inner city of Cape Town. Originally a fishing and farming community, it has since developed into a place of cultural diversity but with economic inequalities and disparities in living conditions across apartheid-induced spatial and racial lines, all within a geographically distinct and confined area.

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Hout Bay is a prime example of how anthropological interventions have led to the destruction of sensitive environmental conditions and the manifestation of social issues. This project considers the parameters of the natural systems to allow for the immediate and future needs of the community for urban development and social cohesion which aims to build urban resilience at the scale of the individual, household, community and city.

Featured graphics: Author’s own