Place-led Community Design in Urban and Rural Settings: Two South African Case Studies

Place-led Community Design in Urban and Rural Settings: Two South African Case Studies

Résumé en français

Cet article propose que l'objectif principal de la conception communautaire soit de créer des lieux devie plus agréables, en particulier des lieux de valeur durable fondés sur des analyses solides et défendables du site et de l'environnement.  Deux études de cas en Afrique du Sud seront examinées. Les îles Thesen à Knysna,dans la province du Cap-Occidental, qui démontrent que la valeur durable et la qualité d'un lieu dépendent de la manière dont ce lieu répond aux besoins desgens. Et que ces lieux sont créés lorsque les aspects de la quadruple valeur nette (QNV) sont précisément alignés dans la conceptualisation et la planification du développement et exécutés de manière adéquate à travers la conception, la livraison, l'activation et la gestion continue.  

La deuxième étude de cas se situedans un contexte rural. Le Crossways Farm Village, situé entre Gqeberha et Jeffreys Bay, dans la province du Cap-Oriental, a été conçu autour de la valeur durable du lieu et d'une conception à forte intensité de main-d'œuvre qui peut contribuer directement et indirectement à la réalisation des priorités nationales sud-africaines en matière de sécurité alimentaire, de développement rural, de création d'emplois, de réduction de la pauvreté et de formation professionnelle. Il s'agit d'une nouvelle ville rurale autosuffisante et d'une communauté inclusive.)

L'article examine les principes de planification et de conception appliqués nécessaires pour établir l'environnement physique et obtenir une valeur durable pour les projets.

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This article proposes that the central premise of community design should be place-making - creating better places for people to live, specifically places of enduring value based on sound and defendable site and environmental analyses. Two case studies in South Africa will be explored. Thesen Islands in Knysna, demonstrates that the enduring value and quality of a place are dependent on how well a place meets people's needs. And that these places are created when the aspects of quadruple net value (QNV) are precisely aligned in development conceptualisation and planning and executed adequately through design, delivery, activation, and ongoing management. The second case study is in a rural context. Crossways Farm Village, between Gqeberha and Jeffreys Bay, was designed around the enduring value of place and labour-intensive design, which can directly and indirectly contribute to meeting the South African national priorities of food security, rural development, job creation, poverty alleviation, and skills training. It is a self-sustainable Rural New Town and inclusive community. The article discusses the applied planning and design principles required to establish the physical environment and achieve enduring value for the projects.

Place, Placemaking and Enduring Value 


 In the framework of this article,a space (public, semi-private or private) is an open volume bounded by objects.Natural or built open spaces are activated into places through the meaning and value that people assign to them. A community is a group of people who have given meaning or value to and regularly use a place.    


 Placemaking can occur in a natural, rural, or urban setting. The intended outcome of placemaking is to develop places where the community members feel pride and ownership and enjoy living or spending time. These places could also be attractive to visitors and tourists.

 Placemaking can be considered as building physical, green, social, cultural, and economic capital which impacts value (Robert, 2020).

 Jerke et al. (2008) highlight the significance of aesthetics in making a place desirable and influencing value. Jerke focused on visual perception; however, humans perceive their environment with all available senses. Although the senses function independently, they influence the overall perception of place (Spense, 2020).

 Good placemaking requires a thorough understanding of an existing site or place and its community and a sensitive interpretation of this knowledge to build assets. In combination, these assets should create a positive perception and value. The assets are summarised in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: An adaption by the author of The 5 Impact Values of Placemaking - Hans Karssenberg (Source: Robert, 2020)

How to measure the success of a placemaking project can be framed in a variety of ways. Some of the benefits of placemaking, such as community pride and trust, are qualitative and difficult to measure. Others, such as the increase in property value, can be quantified.

Jerkeet al. (2008) developed the Quadruple Net Value (QNV) Analysis framework using quantitative indicators to assess a project's economic, socio-cultural, environmental, and sensory performance.

A place showing positive ratings in these QNV categories results in desirable real estate.  

 Environmental Value focuses on the sustainability dividend that accrues from the place—the extent to which environmental best practice has been utilised to enhance the return on the asset cost-effectively. 

 Socio/Cultural Value distils a place's contribution to our positive social interaction and socialisation. The cultural heritage of a place and the opportunities provided for education and wellness contribute to our identity and sense of worth.

 Economic Value manifests in solid and consistent rental income streams, absorption and occupancy rates, premium sales price and performance, capital growth, and tax returns. Increased employment,economic and infrastructure enhancement. 

 Sensory Value is how a place triggers a positive experience through all or at least most human senses. The five primary senses are Sight, Sound, Touch, Taste, and Smell.  

 Enduring Value  

To create a place of enduring value, the QNV initiated and executed by place-making must be carried forward over the long term by placekeeping (i.e., programming and management). The result is not just another strip mall, tract housing estate, or eyesore but real estate assets with value that accrues not just to the developer or the property owner but to all whose lives are shaped by that place.  

 Strategies for Place-led Community Design 

 1.      Walkable, human scale, form-based placemaking orchestrated within a masterplan framework.  

 The masterplan, developed through scientific analysis of the site, is used to coordinate land use and spatial dimensions that create or enhance the community's diversity of places and walkability. A form-based design code book and regulation plans,which a design review panel can enforce, are used to guide the development of the built environment to achieve engaging streetscapes of human scale. 

 2.      Meet more than basic human needs (Karssenberg, 2020)

 A place's quality and value depend on how well it meets people's needs. For a public space to be functional, the basic needs of cleanliness, safety, and essential maintenance must be met. To be transformed into an inviting, enjoyable, and lively place, people should be involved. The best places accommodate opportunities for social connection, personal expression, and creative engagement.  

 3.     Plan for enduring value

 At the project's planning stages, the role or necessary body or organisation responsible for place management and programming and the tools needed to achieve this must be identified, budgeted for, and, in time, established. 

 In the design and roll-out of new communities, the timing and sequence that places are established are also essential. Strategic place-making interventions can significantly impact place marketing and how quickly a community develops. It is essential that the places that are first implemented can accommodate multiple/interim uses, helping to establish the community. 

Thesen Islands 

 Location and background 

 The Knysna town and estuary are located within the Garden Route National Park on the southeastern seaboard of South Africa. The Knysna Estuary has been identified as the most important estuarine system (based on size, habitat importance, zonal type rarity and biodiversity importance) in South Africa (Turpie and Clark, 2007).   

 Thesen Islands is in the Knysna Estuary and is connected to the Waterfront and Lower Central area of Knysna via a causeway approximately 500m long. Originally one island, it is now nineteen manufactured islands connected by twenty-one arched bridges within a tidal canal system. The canal system is connected to the estuary in two places to allow critical tidal flow. 

 Before its transformation, the low-lying, sandy island, then named Thesen's Island, was the site of an abandoned timber processing and treatment plant.

The plant was established in 1922 and operated until the early 1980's. As time passed after stopping, the derelict buildings, disused machinery and hazardous waste areas posed an increasing threat to the surrounding sensitive estuary ecosystem. In 1991, Chris Mulder and Associates Inc (CMAI) proposed a complete re-purpose and revitalisation of the site into a residential marina with a commercial quayside called Harbour Town. In the following years, rigorous analysis, planning, research, design development and specialist consultant reporting (refer to the note at end of the article) were undertaken to obtain an initial environmental authorisation for the project in 1998. Eventually, after eight years and twenty-five iterations of the masterplan, final approval was obtained in 1999 (Badenhorst,2000); construction commenced in 2001. 

Figure 2: Aerial Photograph Timeline of the Development of Thesen Islands (Source: CMAI and CMAI Architects, 2018)
Scope and Size

The Thesen Islands development, totalling 96ha, is a well-functioning tidal canal estate with 19 separate islands and 605 private residential properties. Harbour Town has a 12,000m2 commercial estate with unrestricted public access. The regional offices of the SANParks are located on the historic Thesen's jetty on state land on the western side of the property. The purpose-designed 5.5km of waterways adds 25 hectares of water surface, about 11km of inter-tidal and 3ha of sub-tidal structure to the estuarine habitat. 

 Site and Context Investigation 

The island and immediate surroundings were not in an environmentally pristine condition, yet many environmental challenges had to be considered. They were: 

 A History of Industrial Waste Dumping: The one hundred years of operation of the timber processing plant generated waste products that were randomly dumped across the island.  

 Perimeter berm: A berm had been constructed to demarcate the property boundary. This prevented the inundation of the island during occasional spring high tide storm surges. It also served to demarcate the inter-tidal salt marsh flats, maintaining a near-pristine estuarine habitat within the National Park. 

 The causeway: A causeway linking the island to the mainland enabled the delivery of raw wood from the Knysna hinterland forests and the transporting of products by road and freight rail to national and international destinations. The causeway restricted the natural tidal flow within the Ashmead Channel to the north of the island.

 Knysna sea horse (Hippocampus capensis): A small, endangered fish, the Knysna Sea Horse, was identified as an essential indicator of the ecological status of the Knysna estuarine system. This unique creature was noted as far back as the 1950''s. The animal thrives in habitats that allow it to curl its tail around a convenient structure, such as seaweed or seagrass stalks, for example, Zostera grass beds.  

 The diverse ecosystem: The Knysna system is recognised as the principal estuarine system in South Africa due to the diversity and integrity of the habitat throughout the system. Mudflats, sandy areas, rocky sections, deep water, extensive salt marsh areas, and sub-tidal Zostera beds define this broad-spectrum ecosystem. 

 Industrial Heritage: The industrial buildings and machinery (e.g. the Power Station, gantries, and various sheds) being older than sixty years were classified as of national heritage importance.  

 Site Analysis 

 A full-scale site analysis programme mapped out soils, vegetation, marine life,groundwater quality, waste dump sites and infrastructure. A computer model of the water flow around the island was set up. A composite map that reflected the spatial information allowed for the potential of the entire site to be identified and understood. This formed the basis for the land use design.  

 Community interaction and participation played a pivotal role throughout the investigative process. A project oversight committee was established involving members of civil society,the Government, and the conservation authority.  

 Design Programme  

Landscape architects,environmental planners and architects were appointed to draft a comprehensive re-development plan. The factory and its historic impacts were to be morphed into a well-functioning socio-ecological system that positively contributed to the overall Knysna social, economic, and environmental context. The Thesen's Factory had been the primary job provider for skilled and unskilled labour in Knysna, thereby driving a substantial portion of the economy.

This formed a complex challenge, needing a sensitive and integrated approach to the design to create as many employment opportunities as possible.  
Figure 3: Existing Site Considerations and Objectives of the Proposal (Source: CMAI and CMAI Architects, 2018)
Design Intent 

 The design intent focused on continuing the historical theme of being the heartland of South Africa's timber industry coupled with the maritime theme associated with shipping and boats. An essential feature of the design was ensuring a labour-intensive approach during construction, thereby allowing for re-skilling the existing factory workforce as possible. 

 The New Urbanist Town of Seaside. Florida, USA served as an example of the conceptualisation of Thesen Island. "The prime focus of Seaside's designers was creating a community, so they focused on the public spaces, which include the streets, boulevards and walks in the neighbourhood. The five-minute walking distance rule was used to reduce dependence on the car..." (Louw, 2012).

The intent of Thesen was to create a network of pedestrian pathways, with pedestrians being prioritised over cars. Encouraging smart transport: walking, cycling and use of the waterways. And providing for various residential types, including apartments, row houses,freestanding dwellings and second dwellings. (Louw, 2012).

 Overall, a net positive effect on the environment was pursued, along with adding to the town's economy.  In addition to creating much-needed residential capacity in Knysna, the overall masterplan needed to allow for a mixed-use commercial centre that complements the overall tourism theme adopted for Knysna, thereby creating employment opportunities and necessary commercial activity. 

Figure 4: Thesen Master Plan (Source: CMAI and CMAI Architects, 2018)
Materials and Installation Methods 

 A unique design feature was using rock-filled wire baskets to form the canal edges and, in places, the bottom lining. The construction method was labour-intensive and resulted in a neat product that created almost 11 km of inter-tidal rocky habitat and about 3 ha of sub-tidal substrate favoured by the endangered Knysna Sea Horse (Hippocampus capensis).This, as opposed to the traditional canal linings of either reinforced concrete or sheet-piling which, had little benefit for habitat creation and could have been more visually appealing. 

Figure 5: Canal Edge Cross Section  of the Canal Edge (Source: CMAI and CMAI Architects, 2018)

Based on the design approach of optimising the use of locally sourced labour to create employment opportunities and skills development, all street furniture like streetlights, bollard lighting, walkways, the handrails of the many bridges and walkways along and over the tidal canals were made to the design of the landscape architects. The design used local timber and was manufactured to a high specification by local small enterprises. 

Figure 6: Street Furniture (Source: CMAI and CMAI Architects, 2018)

Stormwater is managed through an integrated series of bio-swales that filter stormwater before discharging to the canals or into detention areas that build and maintain the perched groundwater lens, thereby enabling the growth of trees and a variety of indigenous coastal vegetation. 

Figure 7: Canals and Stormwater Management (Source: CMAI and CMAI Architects)
Environmental Impacts and Concerns 
 The project was subjected to a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) (CSIR, 1995) prescribed by national legislation.

The planning and environmental approval process for the Thesen Islands development took seven years and was hailed as the most comprehensive of its kind at its approval.  The environmental approval was obtained in 1998, and the hundred-and-one conditions of approval were included in a detailed Environmental Management Plan (EMP) (CSIR, 2000) managed by the independent Environmental Control Officer. A multi-disciplinary team of professionals managed and coordinated by the landscape architects, was involved in the roll-out of this project. All conditions were fulfilled; a condition of approval was to establish an Environmental Management Committee to monitor the implementation of and adherence to the EMP, consider and suggest amendments to the EMP, and monitor compliance by the developer with the conditions of approval (Badenhorst, 2000 p.5-3). 

 A necessity of canal estate development is ensuring the canal water remains clean. A specialist hydrodynamic model guided the design of the varying cross-sectional sizes and the configuration of almost five and a half kilometres of canal network. Since the construction of the canal system and its opening to the estuary, a purpose-designed scientific monitoring programme has verified sufficient water exchange through tidal action.


Figure 8: Water Exchange Monitoring (Source: CMAI and CMAI Architects,2018)
Establishing the Community and Place Keeping

The focus of the commercial centre is Harbour Town. Establishing a new centre can take time and was a challenge. The old Boatshed was one of the first buildings in Harbour Town to be adaptively re-used. Initially, it housed an expo centre where new property owners could view examples of doors, windows, colours, finishes and fittings.The southern facade of the building was used to demonstrate exterior paint colours, porches, balustrades, and the overall style of the Island Architecture.

 This was not the only use within the shed; CMAI's office was based there, and the Ile de Pain restaurant was established at the eastern end of the building. The restaurant acted as an anchor to develop Harbour Town and initially to draw people to the island.Today, the Boatshed also houses The Lofts Boutique Hotel, a spa, shops, and offices.

 The Island residents and the wider Knysna community have embraced the public spaces of Thesen Harbour Town, making them part of the narrative of their lives. Immersed in the natural beauty of the estuary it is appreciated by tourists and visitors.

 A Homeowners Association (HOA) is responsible for managing and maintaining the residential aspect of the development. A Commercial Owners Association (COA) is responsible for managing and maintaining Harbour Town. A board of Trustees manages a schedule of events. They also monitor and guide the commercial owners on shop windows and on-street displays.

 International recognition

Thesen Islands received an Award of Excellence at the International Federation of Landscape Architects Africa Asia Pacific Middle East Awards in 2018 in the Wildlife, Biodiversity, Habitat Enhancement or Creation category. Judges cited that the project is "an exemplar of how a development can be designed and constructed to be both commercially viable but also coexist with and enhance the environment." It was also recognised at the International Property Awards 2007 in the Best Marina Development, Best Re-development of a Historic Building – The Dry Mill, and Best Re-development (Multiple Units) The Dry Mill, categories.  Locally, the project received the Institute for Landscape Architecture in South Africa (ILASA) President's Award for Excellence in Design and an Award of Excellence for Design.

Figure 9: Aerial Thesen Islands (Source: Facebook, 2019 Credit: Gustav du Toit)
Thesen Islands, a new community developed on a brownfield site, was conceived and created through environmentally sensitive and responsive placemaking, followed by rigorous place keeping that aimed to achieve enduring value.  It required a multi-disciplinary team effort, and the landscape architect played the leading project coordination role throughout the design and development process.

  Placemaking for a new community is a complex process. Thesen Islands demonstrates that the assets and their value are connected and interdependent, and time is a factor i.e. the waterways and canals had to be constructed before the potential for sustainable water transport or wellness benefits of water sports could be realised. The lining of the canal edges with wire mesh baskets resulted in the immediate short-term economic benefit of job creation and the creation of a new estuarine habitat, significant for the survival of the Knysna Seahorse. The long-term positive impact of the waterways on property value was fully realised when the dwellings had been constructed and the planting established. Enduring value has been ensured by the cleanliness of the water, achieved through the sensitive design and monitoring of the tidal water exchange.

 A rapid increase in property prices has been experienced since completion. This is a huge positive for investors; however, it can be considered a downside in South Africa in terms of meeting the need for housing at the lower end of the scale.Seaside development, a precedent for Thesen Islands, has been criticised as a "manufactured environment without any real layering of community" (Louw, 2012). Some disagree as the Seaside development has also received positive media attention and recognition since its conception (Louw, 2012).  A similar case could be said of Thesen Islands.

Figures 10: The finished project with some of the place making strategies (Source: CMAI and CMAI Architects, 2018)

Crossways Farm Village

  In contrast to Thesen Islands, Crossways Farm Village (Crossroads) is a new town in a rural setting. It is a first of its kind for South Africa and demonstrates that it is not simply a development on a greenfield site that contributes to sprawl and the loss of agricultural land. Rather the development aims to preserve agricultural land and natural areas.   The intent is that the project should benefit the existing Thornhill  village located 5km away.   The village, its school, and easy access off a nearby freeway played a significant role in selecting the site for Crossways.  Also, the site is in an area identified by the local municipality as a Rural Development Node.  


Crossways is in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, Nelson Mandela's home province and a thirty-minute drive west of Nelson Mandela Bay on the N2 freeway. The property straddles the freeway, and an adjacent interchange allows easy access. The property is bordered to the east by the deeply incised Van Stadens River and valley, to the north by the historical Apple Express steam train rail line, to the south by the Old Cape Road, and to the west by dairy farms and Thornhill.


Figure 11: Crossways Farm Village - Location Map (Source: CMAI and CMAI Architects)

Thornhill has a population of three thousand people who were displaced to this area during the apartheid era to an area which had no job opportunities, economic growth, or significant infrastructure.

  The selection of the Crossways site presented an opportunity to embrace and involve the impoverished Thornhill community through job creation. Community members could be trained with the necessary skills to become small-scale contractors.Affording them and existing Small, Medium and Micro  Enterprises (SMMEs) in the community the chance to participate in the development of rural South Africa and, as such,work towards sustainably alleviating poverty.  

It is anticipated that eight hundred-plus permanent job opportunities will be created at Crossways upon its completion. Currently, there are approximately one hundred and thirty job opportunities per day through the construction of houses,invasive alien vegetation clearing, and the management, operation, and security of the three phases that have been completed at Crossways.

 The Spatial Development Framework (SDF) stated: "The area between Sunnyside and Thornhill, west of the Van Stadens River Gorge, is strategically situated with possible future tourism,residential and service delivery functions." The aims for any development in the region were determined as strengthening existing nodes, with a focus on agriculture and eco-tourism and a viable conservation component (Badenhorst, 2009).

 Scope and Size 

 Crossways is in the heartland of South Africa's highest-producing dairy area and covers 520ha of land, 150ha in total being allocated to agriculture, of which 60ha is currently under permanent irrigation with registered water extraction and pumping rights out of the Van Stadens River. The carrying capacity of this land is four cows per hectare, resulting in the current dairy herd of four hundred and twenty cows.  

 Site and Context Investigation 

 A site analysis was embarked on to map out soils, vegetation, the degree of slopes, hydrology, climatology,and existing infrastructure. The data collected during this process was layered to create a concise analytical map identifying the site's opportunities and constraints.  The analysis allowed for the potential of the project site to be identified, understood, and motivated. The information determined the allocation of the three critical land uses: agriculture, nature conservation and human settlement.  


Figure 12: Opportunities and Constraints Mapping (Source: CMAI and CMAI Architects, 2018)  

Community interaction and participation played a pivotal role throughout the investigative process. This participation included consulting traditional community leaders and the residents of Thornhill. Consultants met with these communities in a series of meetings to fully understand their requirements and aspirations.Furthermore, the regional communities and government authorities were consulted to ensure full compliance during the conceptualisation process.  

 The developer created a Community Trust (Trust). The community elects three Trustees, and the developer appoints three Trustees. Thus, six Trustees in total manage it. When the developer sells a property, 2.5% of the sale is paid by conveyancing attorneys into the Trust. This applies to every developer-sold stand. In addition to the developer's contribution, a constant income stream is ensured to the Thornhill community; it is registered in the title deed of every property. When sold, the transferring attorneys pay 0.5% of the now increased value directly into the Trust. This is one of the cornerstones of the developers concept of creating rural new towns where private development can aid and help uplift rural communities.

 Design Programme 

 From the project's onset, the design programme was to plan and design the first contemporary rural New Town in South Africa where anyone, irrespective of race or creed, could become a member of the proposed new community. Throughout the forty-six years of apartheid in South Africa, rural development was disregarded, agriculture was separated from human settlement, and property ownership was racially segregated.  And people of colour were forced into separated townships on the edges of cities and towns. 

 The Spatial Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA 2013) was the first spatial planning legislation to address spatial justice directly. Municipalities are obliged to take spatial justice into account in their Spatial Development Framework's (SDFs) and land use schemes and their decision-making on development applications (van Wyk, 2015). The SPLUMA mandates the development of municipal inclusionary housing policies which aim to facilitate access to affordable housing in well-located parts of towns/cities and to promote spatial justice.  Crossways planning approval was obtained via the Land Use Planning Ordinance in 2010.

 The design programme allowed for a limited aspect of what could be considered inclusionary housing (for the original farm labourers who were working on the farm).

Crossways focuses on creating jobs and opportunities close to an existing community in place of relocating people.  And defers to The National Development Plan 2030 Chapter 8: Transforming Human Settlement under Rural Futures.  The Plan  emphasises the role of small towns in rural areas to create jobs, support regional and local food systems that establish food security, develop green economies related to renewable energy, sustainable tourism, farming, and water usage (NPC 2020).  

 The programme also promoted the self-sufficient supply of utilities and infrastructure to achieve independence from the Local and District Municipality who would normally provide sewer, water, and electrical facilities. Green-design features like rainwater harvesting, solar hot-water heating, and piped fibre optics to the homes were also non-negotiable.  Typically, in South Africa, the role of a Local Municipality is to provide the basic services to its residents. However,Municipalities are facing significant challenges related to staffing capacity,financial sustainability, service delivery and infrastructure maintenance (SACN 2022).  Therefore, a town that is well governed and responsible for the provision of its services and encourages homeowners to go off-grid is an attractive concept.

 The Masterplan 

The developable areas that emerged from the site analyses called for a masterplan composed of walkable and bike-able neighbourhoods and farmstead clusters. A unique character was intended for each neighbourhood, and a variety of property sizes, products, and price ranges were included to reach a broad spectrum of buyers and investors and create a diverse community.  

The masterplan allowed for a commercial village centre and light industrial sites that would generate an economically viable village, employment opportunities and necessary commercial activity.  

All commercial properties at Crossways were zoned mixed use, with commercial or office space on the ground floor and residential or office above. The residential aspect is vital to creating a lively and safe village centre.  

 A form-based design code book and a series of master regulating plans, urban regulations, and site-specific designs to accompany each plot ensures complete control of each neighbourhood's housing and landscape development.  The design intent also focused on ensuring a labour-intensive approach in all aspects of the village's construction to meet the job creation criteria.

Figure 13: Crossways Masterplan (Source: CMAI Architects,2021)

Figure 14: Crossways Village Centre Illustration (Source: CMAI Architects, 2021).  

 The design explored ways that community members would be able to explore the village landscape using a network of pathways, hiking trails and cycleways. In addition, the dairy herd's movement throughout the village intends to be seamlessly integrated yet separated from vehicular traffic and pedestrian flow.  

Figure 15: Crossways Main Street West Illustration (Source: CMAI Architects, 2021)

South Africa is a water-scarce country, and therefore, the design sought to create a modular sewer plant based on the latest technology. The sewage system would recirculate the treated effluent through a series of well-designed wetlands that use this water for irrigation.  

Figure 16: Constructed Wetlands - The Wetlands Provide aesthetic and biodiversity value as well as being functional (Source Samantha Brauteseth)

Furthermore, mandating solar water heaters and enabling owners to add solar panels and sell electricity back into the development minimises CFV's carbon footprint.  

Figure 17: House Rhino (Source: Rhino, CMAI and CMAI Architects)
 Materials and installation methods 
 Based on the design approach of optimising the use of locally sourced labour to create employment opportunities and skills development, all streetlights and bollard lighting were made in the village to the landscape architects' design. 

 The timber for these elements was harvested on-site from Australian Eucalyptus(alien vegetation in South Africa), minimising transport costs and the associated pollution. The positive impact of local job creation and utilising local materials far outweighed any convenience that may have been perceived from ordering similar street elements from an international catalogue. 

 The design guidelines called for all boundary walls, fences, and shade structures to be made of Eucalyptus droppers and rocks harvested from the site. This decision ensured lasting job opportunities for the community and would provide the ongoing removal of alien species in the conservation areas. The main road is asphalt; however, designing paved streets and lanes also created the maximum number of jobs for the community and locally owned-small-scale contractors.   An area of suitable gravel was identified and reserved as a quarry for road-building material during the first two phases of the development.  The quarry will eventually be rehabilitated into a stormwater filtration wetland pond system integrated with dwellings.

 Lastly, there are no storm water pipes planned for the development. Natural drainage and a series of pebble-lined swales, also sourced from the site, divert stormwater to the irrigation ponds and natural streams.  Stilling ponds in all the open spaces ensure maximum soil recharge and moisture retention for the carefully selected indigenous plant species of shrubs and flowers.   

Figure 18: Aerial perspective illustration of Crossways Farm Village macro drainage strategy (Source: CMAI, 2009)
Establishing the Community  

 A significant challenge was initiating Crossways as a viable community and introducing people to the development. The approach was to establish a farm-style sales centre and restaurant, the Crossways Country Kitchen, that would initially cater to weekend business.  In 2020, Crossways Village Market was initiated. It is an open-air market that occurs twice a month on Sundays close to the Sales Centre building.  

Figure 19: Sales Centre and Country Kitchen Building (Source: Rieg & AD Photography 2023)

 Although listed as a Category 2 invasive alien species, the Eucalyptus trees at the market were retained in limited locations to contribute to the sense of place that already existed and to establish a unique venue for the market. The market provides a start-up opportunity for small businesses and incrementally introduces a commercial aspect to Crossways. 

Figure 20: Crossways Village Market (Source: Crossways Village Market Facebook page: Caroline Johnstone, 2023)

The Property Owners Association will be responsible for management and maintenance.  The Association also comprises Commercial Owners, Industrial Owners and Aeropark Owners divisions. Although Homeowners Associations can be contentious, the Thesen Islands development demonstrates the value a well-governed property owner association can impart on the long-term success of a project.


 To date three phases have been sold, with seventy houses being constructed. The architectural guidelines are not as rigid as at Thesen Islands, yet, along with the masterplan and form-based regulations, they have been critical in developing the distinct character that is emerging at Crossways.   

Figure 21: Aerial photograph of the completed phases (Source: Rieg & AD Photography, 2023)

The implementation of the project has been delayed due to shareholder disputes along with other extraneous issues such as COVID-19, a disfunctional  local Government, and the poor economic climate. However, advances in technology have provided opportunities that were not available before 2010 when the development was granted approval. Crossways is a community in the making with an active homeowner group.  Social events such as street barbecues (braais),sunset hikes and a crafters group organised by the community members all contribute to the building of positive relations.

 Crossroads is a first of its kind for South Africa. It demonstrates a new approach to rural village development where the preservation of agricultural land and natural areas created the foundations onto which a new community can emerge, and in the process, benefit the inhabitants of Thornhill, an impoverished community of previously displaced people.


The reports that were produced include: Water circulation, Estuarine Water Quality, Soils and Groundwater (addressing Soils,Groundwater Zones, Groundwater Chemistry, Soil Contamination), Habitat of Thesen Island (addressing Terrestrial and Inter-tidal Habitats, Human Disturbance, Benthic Fauna (associated with Salt marshes and Mudflats), Avifauna (addressing Estuarine Avifauna and Terrestrial and Freshwater Avifauna,Cultural Historical Aspects, Socio-economic Aspects, Effects Field, Engineering and Architecture and Design.


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 Badenhorst, P. (2009) Final Environmental ImpactReport Proposed Crossways/Sunnyvale Development, Wellington, South Africa:Pieter Badenhorst Professional

Services CC

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